Feb 25, 2013 - Award Winning Tulsa Jam’bassadors Return Home with Honors

After months of rehearsals and hours of practice the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame's all-city band, the Tulsa Jam'bassadors, returned from the Charles Mingus High School Competition and Festival in New York City taking first place in three categories.


"Our students performed incredibly," notes Doug Styers, who co-directs the Tulsa Jam'bassadors with Tim Shadley. "The Jam'bassadors were awarded Outstanding Saxophone Section, Best Piano Solo, and Best Drum Solo in the specialized schools division."


Jonathan Haywood, a sophomore at Edison, took the Outstanding Soloist Award for drums, while Kaze Mauser, a senior at Tulsa School of Arts & Sciences, won his for piano solo. The top-rated saxophone section was led by East Central Junior Adrian Miller.


"We are proud of the exceptional talent that was showcased by TPS students who have come together from multiple schools as the Tulsa Jam'bassadors," said Dr. Keith Ballard, superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools. "They competed head-to-head against two other jazz bands from the east and west coasts in this very exclusive competition. We are grateful to the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame for their leadership and to the dedication of these fine musicians. They have represented Oklahoma admirably."


"I am proud to be a strong supporter and sponsor of these young, Tulsa musicians," said State Representative Kevin Matthews. "As we look to the future, it is my hope that we restore music education to the levels that I enjoyed as a public school student. The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is in my district, and the work they are doing with young musicians is invaluable."


Although the Mingus event - named for the pioneering jazz bassist, bandleader, and composer - is now in its fifth year, this is the first time for an Oklahoma band to compete in the finals. The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame recruited young musicians from the Tulsa Public Schools' system and the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences to put together the 20-member group, which began rehearsals in August. Following months of work, the Jam'bassadors recorded three Mingus songs for submission to the Mingus Foundation.


Only six big bands from across the country were selected as finalists; the Jam'bassadors competed in the "Big Band - Special Schools and Programs" category against two other groups: the Manhattan School of Music's Pre-collegiate Big Band from New York, and the SFJazz High School All-Stars Orchestra from San Francisco, which won the overall competition. "We surprised everyone at the competition," says Styers. "Judges told us that it was very difficult making a final decision."


"All who witnessed the hard work and relentless determination of these young musicians is not surprised with the Jam'bassadors incredible performance at their first competition," says Jason McIntosh, CEO of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. "The leadership of Doug Styers and Tim Shadley provided the guidance necessary to develop the skills needed for this win. Music educators like Styers and Shadley continue the strong music legacy in Oklahoma by mentoring and teaching the next generation of world-class musicians."


Winning pianist Mauser says he was "a little surprised by the caliber of players"
the Tulsans encountered at the festival, and drummer Haywood agrees. "I was really impressed by the level of musicianship there," he says. "They all came out showing their passion for Charles Mingus, the feel they had for his music."


It's a passion shared by both of Tulsa's winning soloists. "I listen to Charles Mingus all the time, to get the feel of the rhythm section from him," says Haywood. "He's a great bassist, and as I've listened to his songs,
I've tried to incorporate his style of music with my own."


"I'm very familiar with Charles Mingus' work," adds Mauser. "I've been listening to him ever since I got interested in jazz, five or six years ago."


In addition to competing, the members of the Tulsa Jam'bassadors attended clinics and master classes with other high school musicians from across the country, heard the Mingus Big Band play live at the Jazz Standard, and spent time with the founder of the festival Sue Mingus, the musician's widow - who lent Jam'bassadors bassist C.J. Fennell Mingus' famed Lion's Head bass to use in the competition.


"She was very gracious and complimentary toward the Jam'bassadors and excited about our talented and diverse group of young musicians," says Styers.


The band and its directors were welcomed home Tuesday evening, following their bus trip from New York, by Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, who praised the young players for their showing at the event.

Co-director Tim Shadley, in turn, praises the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame for its
role in the founding, nurturing and supporting of the Tulsa Jam'bassadors.


"The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is the keystone to all of this," he says. "There
are only a few places like it in the United States, places that specialize in jazz
outreach and education. The Mingus Project is a perfect example of what the Jazz Hall does for Oklahoma."


The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c) (3), non-profit, cultural and educational organization. It exists to provide a system in and for the State of Oklahoma to preserve, promote and illuminate the true art forms of jazz, blues and gospel music; also identify, document and honor the artists who have made a significant contribution locally, regionally, nationally and internationally to its development. Additionally, the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame promotes learning, training, classes, performances and cultural events with and on behalf of disadvantaged youth of all races, creeds, religions and ethnic heritage and provides scholarships to graduating students. We celebrate the music of America.


The Charles Mingus High School Competition and Festival was founded and produced by Sue Mingus and The Charles Mingus Institute, in coordination with Justin DiCioccio and Manhattan School of Music. This year's Festival took place February 15-18, 2013 included a film showcase, student jams, a full day of instrumental clinics exploring the music of Charles Mingus, three nights of performances by the Mingus Big Band at Jazz Standard, and the nationwide Competition showcasing young jazz talent from high schools across the country. Past adjudicators have included Gunther Schuller, Ken Pullig, Boris Kozlov, Ku-umba Frank Lacy, Scott Robinson, Justin DiCioccio, Randy Brecker, Conrad Herwig, Robin Eubanks, Seamus Blake, Vincent Herring, Donny
McCaslin, Christian McBride, and many others.