JAZZ-ology wins Downbeat award for a fourth year


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Members (left to right)Nino-Angelo Lastimoso, Matthew Chamberlain, Natasha Singer, Joseph Saeteurn, Laura Karst and Jesse Chao make up Contra Costa College’s JAZZ-ology.

By Jose Arebalo, Scene Editor

JAZZ-ology has received a Downbeat magazine award for a fourth year in a row as the group’s unique and burgeoning talents have been respected once again.

Downbeat is a publication devoted solely to jazz and blues that was founded in 1934. The magazine has selected the CCC-based musical troupe to receive this year’s Student Music Award.

Music department Chairperson Stephanie Austin acknowledged the group’s effort as a reason for its accolades.

“You know the old saying: The way to Carnegie Hall is practice, practice, practice,” Austin said.

She said the selection process was intense.

“All entries were required to have no identifying marks or titles,” she said. “Judges were industry professionals who listened to the recordings and ranked the submissions.”

JAZZ-ology has won that ranking for four years now, which further highlights her students’ talent and all the hard work everyone, including Dr. Austin, puts in.

The ensemble is being praised for its strong performances, which provide a smaller and more unique offering.

The group’s pieces have submitted as un-tuned recordings for seven years and have won awards each year. “We are one of the smaller groups,” JAZZ-ology member Joseph Saetern said.

The group’s size is rare within a competition full of huge ensembles and very diverse groups, he said.

“Individually, this is my second time winning the award,” he said. “It feels great to have all of our efforts acknowledged. I think the choice of songs in particular gives us an edge,” Saetern said.

“In our repertoire, we have songs from bossanova, swing and the free jazz era. Normally you wouldn’t really hear people sing pieces like that,” he said.

With the help of Dr. Austin, the group is able to perform more special musical arrangements.

“Most groups don’t have that kind of option, but we are fortunate enough to have someone arrange it for us,” he said.

JAZZ-ology member Nino-Angelo Lastimoso said, “Each individual’s creativity and what they know is brought to the table. The team’s dynamic has space for everyone to show off their talents.

“Every member in the group has a solo,” Lastimoso said. “Natasha Singer (JAZZ-ology member) got an award for best scat solo for her performance of the song lonely woman. There are also lots of opportunities for us to be creative during practices,” Lastimoso said. “When we sing jazz pieces live, there are spaces for improvisation,” he said.

Austin creates an open atmosphere during rehearsals.

“She’s open to ideas we have and brings each individual’s creativity to the table,” Lastimoso said.

Downbeat originally started the Student Music Awards with the idea of giving every public institution an opportunity to be recognized. “The idea was that any school, large or small, rich or poor, could compete to be considered outstanding,” Austin said.

Since the inception of the awards in the 1970s, there have been a few changes. The program was originally free to submit an entry, to now each submission has a $15 fee.

The change comes as the result of a larger pool of contestants.

Submissions are divided first by school and then by category. First, submissions are separated by middle school, high school, two-year colleges and four-year colleges.

Then there are categories that have to receive a minimum number of submissions for the evaluation to be valid, Austin said. There are submissions for big band, combo, jazz choir, instrumental soloist, vocal soloist and recording techniques.