LUJE’s outstanding Down Beat

Amelia Perron

The Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble, directed by Fred Sturm, has won a highly prestigious Down Beat Student Music Award for “Outstanding Performance” in college big band.
The submitted recording, titled “Witnesses,” was comprised entirely of student compositions and arrangements. Doug Detrick ’06 also represented Lawrence’s jazz program, winning the “Outstanding Jazz Arrangement Award” this year.
The awards, given out by Down Beat magazine, are among the most prestigious available to young jazz musicians.
According to Sturm, these awards “represent the highest honors and distinction in jazz education.” Hence, the competition is stiff.
“This year’s Down Beat competition drew 865 entries from the U.S. and Canada,” says Sturm. “We competed against the finest university jazz programs in North America, most of which offer master of music and doctoral programs in music.”
The fact that a small, undergraduate conservatory can win in a competition against large jazz programs that include graduate level performers is particularly impressive.
Says Sturm, “It’s always a thrill to be recognized with an award like this, but what I’m most proud of is the fact that we accomplished this as an undergraduate institution.”
“We’re competing against places like Eastman that have huge, high-power jazz programs,” added junior LUJE pianist Greg Woodard. “We’re like your small-town organic yogurt maker competing against the guys from Dannon and Yoplait.”
Woodard had no trouble explaining LUJE’s underdog success story. “Fred Sturm,” he said, “knows exactly what needs to be done to make the music sound better at all times. He has impeccable rehearsal technique.”
“This [award] says an incredible amount about the jazz composition program here,” Woodard continued, further crediting Sturm. “Not only did Doug Detrick win a DB, but the entire CD was student arrangements. Most schools wouldn’t submit that for this award.”
The decision to record student works instead of professional arrangements demonstrates Sturm’s confidence in the musicians.
“I decided to send the student works because they supplied, in my opinion, honest snapshots of our complete Jazz and Improvisational Music Department at that moment in time,” Sturm explained. “Our finest performers were featured in works by our finest student writers, and the resulting recordings reflected the tutelage of Lawrence’s superb jazz faculty.”
Said super-senior trombonist James Hall, “The fact that we won it with student compositions is an added bonus. It exhibits our ensemble’s ‘terroir’ in a way that few college jazz ensembles can.”
Hall concluded, “The artistic integrity of this project is therefore almost unheard-of in the college music world.”
This is LUJE’s third DB, and individual Lawrentians have totaled 15 awards over the years. Detrick, this year’s other Down Beat winner from LU, received the “Outstanding Jazz Arrangement Award” for his arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “A Single Petal of a Rose.” The work was recorded last spring by LUJE and the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Becker.