Three Derby students were the recipients of two Student Music Awards from DownBeat Magazine, a publication that has been dedicated to “Jazz, Blues, and Beyond” since 1934. Their Student Music Awards have been an institution since 1976, and are considered among the most prestigious awards in Jazz education. Hundreds of musicians, music educators and music industry professionals have received their first international recognition as DownBeat Student Music Award winners. This year's recipients were officially announced May 5, 2022 in the magazine’s annual jazz education issue.
Derby students Grace Chen '23, Griffin Kelleher '23, and Nate Ward '23 took top honors as the Derby Academy Organ Trio in the Junior High Blues/Rock/Pop Group category. The students began working together as the Trio in September 2021, learning how to work collaboratively as a group and create music in Blues, RnB, Jazz, and Brazilian music styles. Griffin Kelleher was also recognized as the winner of the Junior High Blues/Rock/Pop Soloist award category. These are the first DownBeat Student Music Awards earned by Derby student musicians. Derby was among only four institutions in the state of Massachusetts to receive awards; UMASS Amherst, Duxbury High School, and the Berklee College of Music also received recognition.
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.