Downbeat Awards Honor Frost Students

The annual Downbeat Student Music Awards recognized multiple ensembles and students from the Frost School with one of the most important honors in jazz music.

Once again, multiple students and ensembles from the Frost School of Music were recognized in the annual Downbeat Student Music Awards, one of the most visible and prestigious honors in the world of jazz. 

The 47th edition of Downbeat’s student awards issue showcased the next generation of jazz artists in a special issue released in June, announcing winners in 14 categories for jazz performers, composers, ensembles, arrangers, and engineers from middle schools, high schools, performing arts high schools, community colleges, undergraduate colleges and graduate colleges across the United States.

Altogether, five ensembles and nine individuals from the Frost School received Downbeat Student Awards in multiple categories. 

“I'm delighted by the remarkable achievements of the students in the Studio Jazz Writing (SJW) program,” says Stephen Guerra, assistant professor in the Department of Studio Music and Jazz. Guerra was the faculty mentor for three of Frost’s Graduate College winners: Joshua Chapple, who won for Outstanding Composition, Large Ensemble as well as for Outstanding Arrangements (Big Band); Dan VanZeeland, Jazz Arrangement (Big Band); and Juan Gomez Torres, for Engineered Live Recording in the Outstanding Recording category.

“Witnessing their exceptional skills and boundless creativity being acknowledged fills me with immense pride,” Guerra continued. “The awards bestowed upon [master’s degree] students Joshua and Dan for their outstanding composition and arranging skills stand as a true testament to their talent and growth as writers. Moreover, D.M.A. candidate Juan Gomez's triumph in the Engineered Live Recording category marks yet another milestone in the ongoing legacy of SJW students excelling in the engineering categories.”


The Graduate College – Outstanding Performance winners were the Frost Jazz Orchestra, for Large Jazz Ensemble; Frost Extensions, for Small Vocal Jazz Group; and the Frost Fusion Ensemble, for Blues/Pop/Rock Group. 

Steve Rucker, lecturer in the Studio Music and Jazz Department, was the faculty mentor for Frost Fusion, and for the Frost Funk Ensemble, an Undergraduate College winner for Blues/Pop/Rock Group. He also mentored guitarist Kevin Venier, honored as a Blues/Pop/Rock Soloist for Graduate College – Outstanding Performance.

"It has been a wonderfully rewarding experience to be the director of the Funk/Fusion Ensemble since its inception,” says Rucker. “The group has won at least one Downbeat award every year since 2001. I try to bring out the individual strengths of the members of the group, and original composition is required, so the sound and material of the ensemble changes every single semester, sometimes radically. Over many years, I’ve been so impressed by the talent and cooperation of this ensemble.”