California State University, Northridge’s Jazz ‘A’ Band was one of only 10 jazz bands invited to take part in the inaugural Jack Rudin Jazz Championship – a two-day invitational competition featuring ensembles from the most well-regarded university jazz programs.
The championship took place on Jan. 18 through Jan. 19 at Fredrick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York.
The competition was split in two parts where students competed to qualify for the second round of the championship. The final concert featured performances by the top four placing bands – University of North Texas, Temple University, Indiana University and Michigan State University – followed by a culminating performance and awards ceremony.
“This was a special trip for us,” said Gary Fukushima, interim area coordinator for the Jazz Studies Program in the Department of Music in CSUN’s Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication. “To be considered and included among the strongest jazz programs in the country was quite an honor, and we really rose to the occasion. We came to New York fully aware that we were in the precious role of underdogs. As we were the only school among the 10 without a graduate program, it stands to reason our students on average were quite a bit younger than their peers from these colleges.”
Although Jazz ‘A’ Band didn’t make it to the final round, four students – pianist Amanda Hamilton, drummer Myles Martin, trumpeter Cesar Hernandez and saxophonist Christopher Astoquillca – were singled out as outstanding musicians.
Astoquillca was also one of two students invited to perform with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
“To see Christopher, a Latino-American – who grew up in Los Angeles and went to public school – handpicked from among all the elite players at the competition to perform with one of the greatest jazz ensembles in the world on their own stage, that embodies the very spirit we value here at CSUN,” Fukushima said. “Anyone, regardless of cultural or economic background can learn to play jazz at the highest level.”
The championship is named after Jack Rudin, a founding supporter of the signature Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival.
Participating universities included the University of Northern Colorado, University of North Texas, Indiana University, Michigan State University, Eastman School of Music, North Carolina Central University, Temple University, The Juilliard School and The Manhattan School of Music.
To watch the Jazz ‘A’ Band performance, visit https://youtu.be/Jk09ABvsptg?t=5250.