National award for Vocal Jazz Ensemble at MPS’ Milwaukee High School of the Arts

Considered one of the top student music competitions in the world

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Public Schools’ Milwaukee High School of the Arts Vocal Jazz Ensemble has won DownBeat Magazine’s national Student Music Award for Outstanding Performance by a Performing Arts High School Jazz Choir.

The award-winning Vocal Jazz Ensemble from MPS' Milwaukee High School of the Arts

The award-winning Vocal Jazz Ensemble from MPS’ Milwaukee High School of the Arts

In its 37th year and considered one of the top student music competitions in the world, the Student Music Awards is a national contest that offers categories for junior high, high school and university music students and bands.

The judges, who are professional musicians and educators, assess entrants based on a range of criteria: musicianship, creativity, improvisation, technique, sound quality and balance, excitement and authority. The awards were announced in the magazine’s June issue, released April 29.

“To put this award in perspective, it’s tantamount to Sports Illustrated selecting the best high school football team,” says Raymond Roberts, MHSA Music Department Chair and director of the ensemble.

The MHSA Vocal Jazz Ensemble recorded an audition CD this Fall and submitted three songs to the student contest at DownBeat. This ensemble has garnered many awards and recently performed at the North Central- American Choral Director’s convention in Des Moines, Iowa.

Members of this year’s ensemble are:Johnathan Adair, Demar Bean, Jaylynn Bryant, Amani Carter. Mykesha Chaney, Dazjae Chick, Oksana Cruz, Ezekiel Hibbler, Shampriel Morrise, Yoel Martinez, Andreus Oliver and Aecha Santiago

Media interested in visiting the ensemble should contact Tony Tagliavia, MPS media manager, at (414) 475-8675.

MHSA offers students the chance to select an arts-focused major (creative writing, dance, theater, music or visual art) and receive at least two class hours of instruction per day focused on that major. Students commit to one area of the arts for all four of their years at the school. In addition to its focus on the arts, MHSA also provides an academically challenging educational program that includes Advanced Placement and honors courses. Students may select from more than 12 AP courses for both high school and college credit.

Milwaukee Public Schools continues to be committed to improving access to the arts. Over the past two years, more than 90 art, music and physical education specialists have been added to MPS schools and the proposed 2014-15 budget would add another 50 art/music/PE specialist positions.


About Milwaukee Public Schools
Milwaukee Public Schools, Wisconsin’s largest school district, is expanding college and career readiness efforts and continuing to implement innovative reforms that give every student the opportunity to succeed. MPS’ high-quality school options for 3-year-olds to high school seniors feature school climates in which positive behavior is reinforced; certified, highly-trained teachers; 21st-century learning technology for students; and curriculum aligned to the rigorous Common Core State Standards, which set a clear, high bar for the topics students must master at each grade level. MPS’ Class of 2013 earned $24 million in scholarships and the district is home to some of the state’s best high schools according to the Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report. More MPS news is available at