Uarts’ ‘Z’ Big Band Wins Coveted Performance Spot In Prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival

September 7, 2017

The University of the Arts’ “Z” Big Band, recognized as one of the pre-eminent college jazz ensembles in the United States, will perform at the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival in Monterey, Calif.

In April, the “Z” Band went up against top student ensembles from across the country in the Festival’s college competition, the Next Generation Jazz Festival, with the winners receiving an invitation to perform at the Monterey Jazz Festival, taking place September 15-17, 2017. Led by Assistant Professor Matt Gallagher MM '01 (Jazz Studies), the ensemble tied for the top spot with the University of Nevada Las Vegas. In addition, members of the ensemble won three of the five soloist awards.

The band’s competition included ensembles from some of the top music programs in the country: Sacramento State University; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Azusa Pacific University; the University of Kansas; and California State University at Northridge. Making the “Z” Band’s result even more impressive is the fact that the schools with which it competed have an average enrollment of 27,000 students, while UArts has an enrollment of just under 1,900.

“Z” Band members were selected as winners in three of the five soloist categories:

  • Henry Tirfe ’17 (Saxophone), tenor saxophone [pictured above]
  • Anthony Nigro ’18 (Saxophone), alto saxophone
  • Sam Riessen ’17 (Guitar), guitar

For Tirfe, this is the second consecutive year being named a top soloist at the festival.

To celebrate the band’s success, UArts hosted a "Z" Band concert event on September 7, featuring performances by the band, as well as a post-concert reception and a special alumni jam session.

The “Z” Big Band was a finalist in the 2016 Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival and for the past two years has been named one of the nation's top college jazz ensembles in the annual DownBeat magazine Student Music Awards.

Part of the Monterey Jazz Festival's Jazz education program, the Next Generation Jazz Festival invites more than 1,300 of the nation’s top student musicians to compete for honors in their respective categories. The festival features performances by collegiate, high school and middle school groups of every kind: big bands, combos, vocal ensembles, vocal soloists, as well as conglomerate bands.

Now in its 60th year, the Monterey Jazz Festival is the longest running jazz festival in the world, celebrating the legacy of jazz, expanding its boundaries, and providing opportunities to experience jazz through the creative production of performances and educational programs.