California Jazz Conservatory Continues Winning Ways in Downbeat Magazine’s “Student Music Awards” Honoring Three CJC Groups in 45th Edition of Annual Student Recognition
California Jazz Conservatory Continues Winning Ways in Downbeat Magazine’s “Student Music Awards” Honoring Three CJC Groups in 45th Edition of Annual Student Recognition
May 19, 2022 | CJC News
The winning combo with (l – r) Mike Zilber, director; Lorenzo Wolczko, bass / composer; Lucas Perry, piano / composer; Will Davies, drums; George Rogers, alto sax / composer.

May 19, 2022; Berkeley California; The California Jazz Conservatory (CJC), celebrating its silver anniversary throughout 2022, has extended its winning record of honors in DownBeat Magazine’s presentation of the 2022 Student Music Awards (SMA). The prestigious international jazz journal recognized three CJC groups in this 45th edition of student recognition, honoring three ensembles from The Jazzschool, CJC’s 25-year-old community education program.

Jazzschool Advanced High School Jazz WorkshopI, led by CJC Professor Mike Zilber was named the top High School Honors Small Ensemble in the country. This is the 16th SMA award (out of 18 years entering) earned by Zilber-led groups.

Jazzschool Advanced High School Jazz WorkshopII, led by Jazzschool instructor Colin Hogan, was honored for Outstanding Performances by a High School Honors Small Ensemble.

Jazzschool Studio Band, led by Jazzschool instructor Dave Eshelman, was honored for Outstanding Performances by a High School Honors Large Ensemble. Eshelman-led groups have earned five SMA awards in the past seven years.

Not one to mince words when it comes to student awards, Zilber commented, “If you know me at all, you know I am pretty skeptical of student jazz competitions as a general rule. Sometimes they seem more about the suits or the look or the prestige of the sponsoring institution, and they can orient programs to treat jazz more like a sport than a collaborative art form. Perception can be 9/10 of the awe and folks can tend to listen with their eyes more than with their ears. You know the drill.

“One exception for me has been the DownBeat Student Music Awards, since these are ‘blind’ listens, where the panel hears only the music with no identifying indicators. And the panel that listens is filled with excellent musicians who draw their conclusions from what they hear. Full Stop.

“Starting with a student group I taught at The Jazzschool in 2004 (a group that included Hamir Atwal, Julian Pollock and Sam Adams – named best group that year by DownBeat Magazine), my groups have entered the DownBeat Student Music Awards every year (except for the year the Advanced High School group did not run, due to Covid). A large number of exceptional musicians have come through the Advanced High School Workshop since 2004, too many to name them all, but they have, pretty much each and every year, been named ‘best honors small group in the country’ or received an ‘outstanding performance’ commendation. It has always made me happy for them, to know that, often recording their original material, always done live in one three-to-four-hour session, they have been honored yearly by DownBeat for their excellence and youthful artistry. They often sound well beyond their years. I wanted to give props to the players who made up the group this go-round: George Rogers – Alto Sax and Composer; Lucas Perry – Piano and Composer; Lorenzo Wolczko – Bass and Composer; Will Davies – Drums.

“Congratulations to you auspicious young musicians. I’ve no doubt that, whatever they do, they will do it well and I can’t wait to hear what it is. And thanks to Erik Jekabson and Rob Ewing for overseeing the Jazzschool Youth Program at the CJC and, of course, to (CJC Founding President) Susan Muscarella for supporting the group and the idea.”

For more information about the degree-granting California Jazz Conservatory and its community education program, The Jazzschool, please visit

About the California Jazz Conservatory

Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2022, the California Jazz Conservatory (CJC) is the only private music conservatory in the country solely devoted to the study and performance of our country’s treasured African American art form, jazz. In addition to offering Bachelor of Music and Associate of Arts degrees in Jazz Studies, CJC is launching a new degree program, Master of Music in Jazz Studies: A Master’s degree for the 21st Century Composer-Performer, in fall 2022. Applications are available at The Jazzschool is the Conservatory’s community education program, offering over 100 Classes and Workshops each quarter, both online and in-person, depending on the Class or Workshop. For more information about CJC, please visit

Contact Paul S. Fingerote / / 831.373.3343