For the second year in a row, three Derby students were recognized in DownBeat Magazine's annual Student Music Awards. Derby students Grace Chen '23, Griffin Kelleher '23, and Nate Ward '23 received five separate awards in this year's contest. DownBeat Magazine has hosted their Student Music Awards since 1976, which are considered among the most prestigious awards in jazz education. This year's recipients were officially announced May 4, 2023 in the magazine’s annual jazz education issue.
As the Derby Academy Organ Trio, the three students took top honors in the Junior High Blues/Rock/Pop Group category for the second year in a row, and received an Outstanding Performance recognition in the Junior High Jazz Group category. Grace Chen was named as this year's winner of the Blues/Rock/Pop soloist category, and Griffin Kelleher received recognition as an Outstanding Performer in both the Jazz and Blues/Pop/Rock soloist categories. The ensemble and soloists were the sole recipients of any recognition in the Blues/Rock/Pop category among Junior High students.
The students share their honors with schools from around the country and the world. Other schools represented in this year's awards include the University of Music & Performing Arts in Graz, Austria, the Conservatorium van Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Berklee College of Music in Boston, many schools in New York City, Seattle, Miami, Los Angeles, and elsewhere.
The students were judged solely on the basis of ability demonstrated on their submitted recordings. These recordings were judged “blind" — no student, group or school names were made known to the judges. The judging criteria are similar to those used by DownBeat in its album Reviews section, including musicianship, creativity, improvisation, technique, sound quality and balance, excitement, and authority. If, in the opinion of the judges, there was no entry in a category that met DownBeat standards, then that category was declared “no contest” with no awards given. The judges were professional musicians and educators.
The students are coached by Derby faculty member Mr. Brian Martin. You can hear their next performance during the Gallery Walk portion of Arts Night, as well as at Granite Links Golf Club in Quincy on May 27.