The Santa Monica High School jazz big band and combo, under the direction of Tom Whaley, swept the top awards after competing at the 43rd Annual Berklee College of Music High School Jazz Festival, the largest high school jazz festival in the world, at the Hynes Auditorium in Boston March 5.
At the end of the 13-hour competition, the Samohi jazz band captured first place in the highest division, Division 1-Big Band and Division 1-Jazz Combo.
“The students represented their state, city and school with the utmost professionalism and class once again,” said Whaley. “We are so very proud of all the hard work and community that resulted in a virtual sweep of the Berklee Jazz Festival.”
Two Samohi students were also chosen as the top soloists from the entire festival, with Jake Noveck (guitar) awarded the first place award for soloist in the big band portion, and Steven Gordon (piano) earning the second place soloist award for big band. Gordon also placed first in the soloist category for jazz combo and Noveck finished second in the jazz combo soloist category.
In addition, student Eli Brown was awarded the “Outstanding Musicianship” award for his performance as the lead trumpet player.
School officials said Samohi was presented four 50-percent scholarships to the five-week Summer Jazz program due to the strong performance of the band and combo at the festival.
As part of the evening festivities, the winners from each division performed on the main stage in the Veteran’s Auditorium inside the Hynes Auditorium. The competition included 300 bands comprised of 3,000 students from around the country, who performed in front of judges from the Berklee College of Music in six divisions determined by size of school. Samohi competed in the highest and most competitive class of schools with enrollment of 1,500 or more students, school officials said.