Monterey Jazz Festival is thrilled to announce the winner of its second annual HBCU Jazz Combo Challenge.

North Carolina Central University (NCCU), winner of the 2024 HBCU Jazz Combo Challenge, won the annual competition again this year! The NCCU Jazz Combo I from Durham, North Carolina, directed by Prof. Robert Trowers will appear at the 67th Monterey Jazz Festival. Watch Monterey Jazz Executive Director Colleen Bailey, share the good news!

Honorable Mentions went to jazz combos from Huston-Tillotson University Jazz Combo and Elizabeth City State University Jazz Ensemble.

The HBCU Jazz Combo Challenge was introduced in 2023 to bring up-and-coming HBCU jazz talent to the Monterey Jazz Festival through online submissions. Our thanks to all the amazing submissions we received this year. You inspire us!

ABOUT North Carolina Central University

North Carolina Central University’s Jazz Studies program has earned a reputation as one of the premier university programs. Started by the great jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd and brought to prominence by legendary saxophonist, flutist and educator Dr. Ira Wiggins, NCCU’s jazz faculty include Artists-in-Residence Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo, in addition to department faculty Robert Trowers (trombone); Albert Strong (trumpet); Lenora Helm Hammonds (vocals and director, Vocal Jazz Ensemble); Mavis Poole (vocals); Jim Crew (piano); Thomas Taylor (drums and percussion); Damon Brown (bass), and Dr. Aaron Hill (saxophone).

Large and small jazz ensembles from NCCU are frequently featured at major venues, festivals, and conferences such as the Jazz Education Network’s annual conference, the Newport, Montreux, and Vienne jazz festivals, and the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Conference. NCCU’s Jazz Combo I has also appeared for the last three years at the Jack Rudin Jazz Championship Combo Showcase at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City.

North Carolina Central University Jazz Combo I

  • Prof. Robert Trowers, director
  • Caleb Gatson, trumpet
  • Emmanuel Howard, alto saxophone
  • Samuel Doresty, tenor saxophone
  • Brandon Seaforth, trombone
  • Jonah Smith, piano
  • Kenneth Gay, bass
  • Jonathan Hill, Jonathan Hill, drums
  • Emani Jones, Elijah Henderson, vocal

Note: The winning HBCU ensemble will be responsible for travel costs to participate in the 67th Monterey Jazz Festival. This includes roundtrip airfare, ground transportation, meals, and hotel accommodations.