Ventura Music Festival selects
by Tim Pompey
student jazz competition
Ventura Music Festival selected a winner from its program of five
performers during its annual Student Jazz Competition on Sunday,
January 16 at the Laurel Theater in downtown Ventura.
The finalists were selected from a group of 18 entries and played live
before a panel of judges. This year the winner was Rachel Flowers, a
17-year-old student from Hueneme High School who impressed both the
judges and audience with a melodic piano performance of the John
Coltrane tune “Naima.”
Asked about her selection, Flowers recalled: “I had a jam session and
played it and then I recorded it. I heard him (Coltrane) with his
pianist McCoy Tyner with vibes and bass and drums and I decided to play
it like that.”
Flowers parents were overjoyed by their daughter’s performance. “It’s
very exciting,” said Flower’s mother Jeanie. “All these kids work so
hard and they’re so talented.” Her father Danny was equally impressed.
“The more she plays,” he said, “the more her maturity catches up with
her skills. The more I hear her, the more I well up.”
As the winner, Flowers received a five hundred-dollar scholarship check
and will have an opportunity to be featured with Arturo Sandoval during
the Ventura Music Festival’s Latin Jazz Concert on Saturday, February
12, 8:00 P.M. at the Ventura County Fairgrounds at Seaside Park.
In addition to Flowers, two other finalists were selected as winners.
2nd place went to saxophonist Jacob Scesney from the Idyllwild Arts
Academy and 3rd place went to fellow sax player Tanner Dawson from
Moorpark High School. Scesney played a rousing version of “The Eternal
Triangle” by Sonny Stitt. Dawson played a rhythmic version of “Recorda
Me” by Joe Henderson.
According to Mary Braitman, president-elect of the Festival’s Music
Education Outreach Committee, the Student Jazz Competition is part of
the Festival’s broader outreach to schools and music students. In
addition to its high school competition, the Festival provides a
program called “Music in the Schools” to elementary schools. For middle
school students, a performer is brought in from the Festival itself.
Noted drummer Charles Levin was one of the key Education Outreach
committee members who pushed to include live performances as part of
the competition. Levin, whose band CODA accompanied the student
performers, was excited this year by the quality of the performances.
“I thought it went great,” he said. “They played their hearts out and
played at a highly professional level.”
He believes the competition helps to carry on a strong jazz tradition.
“It’s heartwarming” he said, “because there is always a new scene
coming up to play jazz. As long as someone is studying, it will carry
Levin supports the competition through his financial support and by
bringing in an outstanding panel of judges. This year they included
jazz pianist Jonathan Cooper, film score producer Eddie Arkin, and
trombonist Craig Woods.
Four of the five finalists who appeared in the student competition will
perform again at the Ventura Music Festival’s fundraising dinner
concert on Monday, February 7, from 6:00-9:30 p.m. at the Sidecar
Restaurant in Ventura. The event is free but there is a suggested
donation at the door. Reservations are suggested and can be made at
Tickets for both the Arturo Sandoval Latin Jazz Concert and the Ventura
Music Festival’s entire 2011 concert series can be purchased at www.venturamusicfestival.org
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