It’s Time for the Next Generation Jazz Festival!

It’s that time of year again! The 48th annual Next Generation Jazz Festival takes place March 9-11 at the newly-renovated Monterey Conference Center in the heart of downtown Monterey. We have just announced the finalists here.

Monterey Jazz Festival’s Education Director, Paul Contos, notes that “a record number of schools applied for Next Generation Jazz Festival this year—at least 20+ more than ever before. The ‘double-blind’ panel of jazz educators worked extremely hard—and very rapidly—finishing their assessment of recorded submissions in record time under the deadline since applications closed January 14.”

The Next Generation Jazz Festival has grown a lot since 1971, when we had one division for high school big bands. In 2018, we now have 10 divisions—with 68 finalists from 11 states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Washington State.

Additional special groups will also perform, with an expected number to be over 90 groups for about 150 performances at the Monterey Convention Center, the Portola Hotel, Turn 12 Bar & Grill, and other locations in downtown Monterey.

The four-time returning champion of the High School Big Band Division, Walnut Creek, California’s Northgate High School Jazz Band I, directed by Greg Brown, will try to become the first 5-peat winner in the festival’s history. Northgate won in 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014, tying the 4-time consecutive winning streak set by the Los Angeles High School for the Arts Big Band (2009-2012); the Los Angeles High School for the Arts Combo (1995-1998); the Folsom High School Jazz Choir (1995-1998); and Berkeley High School Combo (1986-1989). All of these bands are of such high quality that it’s really hard to think of them as high school students – they are closer to being pros!

BELOW: Northgate High School’s winning performance in the High School Big Band Division at the 2017 Next Generation Jazz Festival.

Our annual Opening Night Judges Concert Presented by the California Jazz Conservatory will be at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 9 in the Serra Ballroom at the Monterey Convention Center in downtown Monterey. The show features performances by the Festival’s team of internationally-renowned artists and competition judges, including the Festival’s 2018 Artists-in-Residence, saxophonist Tia Fuller and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen. Also featured will be Shelly Berg, piano, Joel Frahm, tenor saxophone; Tanya Darby, trumpet; Gary Smulyan, baritone saxophone; Alan Ferber, trombone; Katie Thiroux, bass; Kendrick Scott, drums; Dan Balmer, guitar; and Sara Gazarek, vocals.

Paul Contos also has a returning student as an adjudicator in 2018. “If any of you having been around Monterey or Seaside for a while, you may notice the name of Tanya Darby, probably MJF’s biggest (but quietest) success story of a local student with a flourishing jazz career,” said Contos. “Tanya has been an in-demand lead trumpet player for years in New York City, has graced the MJF main stage a number of times; and for the last couple of years, has been on faculty at the University of North Texas, directing the Three O’Clock Lab Band, and teaching lead trumpet.” Tanya will be performing at the Friday Night Judges Concert Presented by the California Jazz Conservatory.

BELOW: Jon Faddis and Tanya Darby at the 35th Monterey Jazz Festival in 1992, and with Paul Contos at the Jazz Education Network Convention in January 2018 in Dallas.

Tanya Darby

One other note is that Folsom High School Music Director Cutis Gaesser, has been named a finalist for the 2018 Grammy Music Educator Award, to be televised on January 28. Folsom High School, under Gaesser’s direction, has been a longtime finalist (and winner) in multiple divisions at the Next Generation Jazz Festival since they started coming in 1991. They have placed in the top three 32 times, and won 14 times! We’re rooting for him!

BELOW: Curtis Gaesser conducting the Folsom High School Jazz Choir at the 35th Monterey Monterey Jazz Festival in 1992, their second win in their division. Photo ©MJF/Tony Salazar.

1992_MJF35_Folsom High School Jazz Choir_(c)Tony Salazar