2018 Next Generation Jazz Orchestra Biographies

Jason Arkins

Baritone saxophonist Jason Arkins, 17, is a senior at Carmel High School in Carmel, New York. He started playing at young age and began studying with former Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra member Ed Xiques in sixth grade, through whom Jason learned classical repertoire, flute, clarinet, jazz history, and improvisation. At the beginning of junior year Jason began attending the Manhattan School of Music Precollege where he studied with some of the best high school musicians in the country and plays in their combo and big band while studying with Dr. Jim Saltzman. Jason was also a member of the New York All-State Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Mike Tomaro at the Eastman School of Music. In addition to touring with the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra this summer, Jason attended the Skidmore Jazz Institute in Saratoga Springs, New York. This is his first year in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

Ethan Avery

Trumpeter Ethan Avery is a junior at Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences in Santa Monica, Calif. and is currently in their “A” Jazz Combo. Ethan is also a member of the Colburn School Thursday Night Combo, which placed first at the Monterey’s 2018 Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival and will perform at MJF61 in September. Ethan was also named a semi-finalist in this year's Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Awards competition. This is Ethan’s first year in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra and he looks forward to taking the stage with them at the Monterey Jazz Festival.

Willie Bays

Alto saxophonist Willie Bays, 16, lives in Olympia, Washington and is a junior at Olympia High School. Growing up in a musical family, he started playing flute and other instruments at an early age and took up the saxophone at age 12. He currently plays with the South Sound Swing Orchestra, has played with many local artists around Olympia and Seattle, and attended the Port Townsend Jazz Workshop in 2016 where he worked with trumpeter Terrell Stafford. This is Willie’s second year in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

William Brandt

Jazz vocalist William Brandt, 17, is a senior at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts at Hamilton High School. William has been involved in music and singing his entire life. Recently, he was a YoungArts finalist in jazz voice in 2017, is currently a semifinalist for the 2018 Presidential Scholar of the Arts and won high school jazz vocalist at the 2018 Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival. William’s passion for jazz includes playing alto and tenor saxophone in combos and big bands both at Hamilton High School and Colburn Community School. His big band and combos have performed at the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival for the past three years and placed in the past two years. His Hamilton combo performed at the Hollywood Bowl opening for the debut of the live performance of La La Land, and won DownBeat awards for outstanding combo in a performing arts high school in 2017 and 2018. This year his composition, “Abditory,” was a DownBeat winner in the category of Performing Arts High School Jazz Composition for a Small Group. William was also a grand prize finalist and performed at the Disney Hall in the 2017 Spotlight Program offered by the Los Angeles Music Center. He has sung and played sax and piano for television and charitable organizations. William has studied voice with Maxayn Lewis, and jazz saxophone with his teacher, Lee Secard, at the Colburn Community School.

Benjamin Conn

Trombonist Benny Conn, 16, is a junior at Agoura High School in Agoura Hills, Calif., where he plays lead trombone in their Studio Jazz Band and Honors Wind Ensemble. Benny currently plays lead trombone in the Colburn Workshop Big Band that competes annually at the Next Generation Jazz Festival. In 2018, he was chosen for the California All-State Jazz Band and the Southern California Jazz All-Stars and was selected for the Berklee Global Jazz Institute Workshop at the Newport Jazz Festival and the Summer Jazz Academy with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Benny also received a scholarship to attend the Stanford Jazz Institute where he studied under Anat Cohen, Wayne Wallace, Ravi Coltrane, and Ralph Alessi. With Agoura High School, Benny has twice participated in the Swing Central Jazz Festival in Savannah, Georgia, and has attended the Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival in New York City, where he worked with Chris Crenshaw, Jeff Hamilton, Steve Fidyk, Wycliffe Gordon, and Terell Stafford. Benny currently studies with Ira Nepus, lead trombonist in the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Locally, Benny has played in the Conejo Valley Youth Orchestra, Conejo Valley Community Jazz Band, and regularly plays gigs around the area with his combo, Quintessence. This is his first year in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

Isaac Coyle

Bassist Isaac Coyle, 17, is a senior at El Cerrito High School in El Cerrito, Calif. He began his musical studies on guitar at age seven and began upright bass at age 14. Isaac was first introduced to jazz at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts in Richmond, Calif. where he continues to study with Howard Wiley and Aneesa Strings, while also taking private Skype lessons from Ben Wolfe. During the past two summers, Isaac participated in the Berklee College Global Jazz Institute Workshop at the Newport Jazz Festival, where he had the opportunity to study with John Patitucci, Ben Street, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Danilo Perez. Isaac was also a member of the 2018 California All-State Jazz Band; a finalist for the GRAMMY Band; and a YoungArts Merit Award winner. With the El Cerrito High Jazz Ensemble, Isaac has competed and placed in many jazz festivals across the West Coast, including a recent third place finish at the Next Generation Jazz Festival and first place win at the Reno Jazz Festival (where Isaac received an outstanding rhythm section player award and outstanding soloist award.) He is also a member of the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars Big Band and Combo, where he has played with SFJAZZ Collective members Robin Eubanks, Sean Jones and Matt Penman. The SFJAZZ All-Stars Big Band recently took first place at the Next Generation Jazz Festival and Swing Central Jazz Festival in Savannah, Georgia. This is his first year in the NGJO. 

Joey Curreri

Trumpeter Joey Curreri, 18, is from Marina del Rey, California, and is a recent graduate from the Academy of Music at Hamilton High School. He began playing music at age six on classical piano and began trumpet at age 10. Joey was part of Hamilton’s award-winning Jazz “A” Band and Downbeat Student Award-winning “A” Combo. Joey was also a student at the Colburn School’s community school program, playing in their DownBeat Student Award-winning Monday Night Combo and Jazz Workshop Big Band. He has studied privately at Colburn with Walter Simonsen for two years. Additionally, Joey has been in the LAUSD All-City jazz program for the past three years, which has performed in the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl. Recently, Joey was a finalist and winner in the National YoungArts competition; selected as a member of the 2017 and 2018 GRAMMY Camp Jazz Session Big Band (sharing the stage with Dave Liebman, Joey Alexander, Jon Batiste, and Jimmy Greene); chosen as a member of the 2017 and 2018 Thelonious Monk Peer-to-Peer All-Star Sextet (touring and performing with Delfeayo Marsalis, Bobby Broom, and Lisa Henry); and received the Los Angeles Jazz Society’s Shelly Manne New Talent Award. In addition, Joey was accepted to both the 2017 Summer Jazz Academy directed by Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and the 2017 Berklee Global Jazz Summer Workshop, where he performed at the Newport Jazz Festival. In the fall, Joey will be a freshman at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. This is his first year in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

Jonathan Gittings

Trumpeter Jonathan Gittings, 18, is a graduate of Princeton High in Princeton, New Jersey, where he performed with their studio band. He has been playing trumpet since fourth grade and currently studies with trumpeter Joe Mosello and guitarist Joseph Federico. He also plays in the Jazz House Kids Big Band under the direction of Abraham Burton. Jonathan also attended the Skidmore Summer Jazz Institute, Litchfield Jazz Camp, and at the Eastman School of Music Summer Trumpet Institute. Jonathan has toured Europe five times with the Princeton Studio Band, Philadelphia Jazz Orchestra, and the Youth Orchestra of Central Jersey, performing in Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, and has performed at the Umbria Jazz Festival and Montreux Jazz Festival. In the United States, he performed with the Danowsky-Wolsk Jazz Orchestra in New York and with the Philadelphia Jazz Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. Jonathan was selected as lead trumpet for the 2017 and 2018 New Jersey Association for Jazz Education (NJAJE) All-State Jazz Band. He has shared the stage with artists such as Jon Faddis, Walt Weiskopf, Randy Brecker, and Wallace Roney. He will pursue a music degree at William Paterson University next fall. This is his first year in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

Peter Glynn

Drummer Peter Glynn, 17, is a senior at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey where he is a member of the school’s Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Honors Jazz Band. Peter can’t remember a time when he wasn’t playing drums. Since 2013, he has been mentored by writer and composer Don Peretz and has been a member of Jazz House Kids. Under the direction of Julius Tolentino and Abraham Burton, Peter has performed in several ensembles and big bands at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and at the Montclair Jazz Festival. In 2017, Peter was selected to play in the Vail Jazz Workshop where he studied under John Clayton, Jeff Clayton, Bill Cunliffe, Wycliffe Gordon, Lewis Nash, and Terell Stafford. In 2018, Peter became a YoungArts New York winner, and performed at the Baryshnikov Art Center in New York City under the direction of Adam Larson. This is Peter’s first time in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

Kieran Hitsman

Tenor saxophonist Kieran Hitsman, 18, is a senior at Dillard High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where he plays in their top jazz ensemble. Involved with music from a young age, he began playing tenor saxophone in seventh grade, and has placed in the Broward All-County Concert and Jazz Band. From 2015-18, Kieran traveled to Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Competition and Festival in New York City with the Dillard Jazz Ensemble. In 2017, the band placed third with Kieran earning Honorable Mention. In 2018, Kieran was selected the GRAMMY Band. This is his first year in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

Sam Keedy

Trombonist Sam Keedy, 17, is a senior at the Denver School of the Arts (DSA) in Denver, Colorado. Born into a family of musicians, Sam started playing trombone at age 12, and has studied with John Fedchock, Paul McKee, Dave Liebman, Vincent Gardner, Walter Blanding, Conrad Herwig, Emmet Cohen, Brad Goode, Russell Hall, Shane Endsley, Kyle Pool, Steve Wiest, Jamey Aebersold, Eric Gunnison, Ron Miles, Terell Stafford, John and Jeff Clayton, Bill Cunliffe, Lewis Nash, and Wycliffe Gordon. Sam has been in several DownBeat Award-winning bands, as well as performing in the University of Northern Colorado Honor Jazz Band under the direction of Dana Landry since 2016, and the Colorado All-state Jazz Band since 2015. In 2017, Sam played lead trombone in the DSA’s Jazz Workshop Orchestra at the national Essentially Ellington competition, where they placed second overall; and was accepted to the Vail Jazz Workshop. Sam is also a member of the Denver-based quintet, Impulse, which recently attended the 2018 Mingus Competition. Sam will be a senior in the fall at DSA. This is Sam's first year with the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

Leo Markel

Leo Markel, 17, is a senior at Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida, and is a member of their jazz band, jazz combo, wind ensemble, and philharmonic orchestra. Leo picked up guitar at a young age and began playing trombone in sixth grade. In 2016, he attended the Brevard Jazz Institute under the direction of Michael Dease and, in 2017, Leo was selected to play in the Jazz Band of America under the direction of Mike Tomaro, with guest artist Andy Martin. That same year, Leo also attended the Jazz at Lincoln Center Summer Jazz Academy, the Berklee Global Jazz Workshop at the Newport Jazz Festival, and the Brevard Jazz Institute. Leo was also a member of the 2017 and 2018 Florida All-State Jazz Bands, where he worked with Eric Richards and Ed Calle. In 2018, Leo was selected for the 2018 GRAMMY Band, which performed in venues across New York City, and was recognized as a YoungArts Honorable Mention Winner. This is his second year in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

Jack McDonald

Trumpeter Jack McDonald, 18, is a graduate of Champaign Central High School in Champaign, Illinois. Jack began studying trumpet in seventh grade, studying with Tito Carrillo and Barksdale Bryant. For the last two years, Jack has performed as the lead trumpet and principal horn of his school’s top jazz ensemble and wind symphony. Jack has played with Jim Pugh, Chip McNeill, and Jeff Helgesen, among others. Jack has performed as the lead trumpet of the Illinois All-State Honors Jazz Band, and while playing lead, Jack’s jazz ensemble attended the Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival in New York City twice and attended the Savannah Georgia Swing Central Music Festival. Jack won the Essentially Ellington Outstanding Lead Trumpet Award and was selected as alternate trumpet for the NYO Jazz Camp. Jack has also won additional outstanding trumpet awards from other festivals. Originally a French Horn player, Jack began studying classical music in fourth grade with his mother, Beth McDonald, the former principal horn of the U.S. Army Field Band. Jack’s father, Bruce McDonald, recently retired from his position as director of the Navy Band in Washington D.C., and Jack has performed with the Navy Band during a tour. In his junior year, Jack was selected for the Illinois All-State Honors Band on French Horn, and in his senior year, Jack’s wind symphony performed as the Honor SuperState Band in Foellinger Great Hall at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana. Jack also won a scholarship to the Illinois Summer Youth Music Camp where he performed as principal horn in the camp’s orchestra. Jack is pursuing a degree in Bioengineering and will continue his jazz studies at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. This is his first year in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

Ian Muñoz

Alto saxophonist Ian Muñoz, 16, is a junior at the New World School of the Arts in Miami, Fla. where he is a member of the school’s wind symphony and award-winning jazz ensemble. As a new young artist in Miami’s creative jazz music scene, his zeal for music was evident at a very early age. By age eight, Ian was playing alto and soprano saxophone for his elementary school’s jazz combo where he demonstrated an almost intuitive understanding of jazz improvisation. He has received state and national recognition for his performances, and has already appeared alongside jazz greats such as Shelly Berg, Ira Sullivan, Ed Calle, Nestor Torres, and Nicki Parrott. Ian was featured as the opening act for 13-time GRAMMY winner Paquito D’Rivera’s Miami concert in 2014. This is his first year in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

Erik Nelson

Tenor saxophonist Erik Nelson, 18, is a graduate of Albany High School in Albany, California, where he played in their wind ensemble, jazz band, and led their jazz combo. Erik began playing piano at the age of five, began saxophone in fourth grade, later adding oboe, guitar and flute. He has studied with Jim Moran, Dann Zinn, and Michael Zilber. He has been a member of the SFJAZZ High School All Stars, Jazzschool Studio Band, Jazzschool Advanced High School Jazz Workshops, the Cosmic Conquerors, and the 2017 California All-State Jazz Band. He has won six DownBeat awards, including one for his original composition “This is Not a Song.” Erik has played with Joel Frahm, Wayne Bergeron, Alex Hahn, Robin Eubanks, Matt Penman, Branden Lewis, Bob Sheppard, and Anton Schwartz. This fall, Erik will attend the University of California, Berkeley to study physics. This is his first year in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

Zachary Niess

Trombonist Zach Niess will be a freshman at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music in the fall. Growing up in a musical family, he began playing trombone in the fourth grade, and has studied with Timothy Whalen, Craig Fraedrich, Shawn Purcell, and Matt Niess. As a four-year veteran of the National Jazz Workshop All-Star Jazz Orchestra he has shared the stage with Wynton Marsalis, Charlie Young, Doc Severinsen, Graham Breedlove, Terell Stafford, Alan Baylock, Sal Lazono, and Wycliff Gordon. He has performed at Blues Alley, the Kennedy Center, the Jazz Education Network convention, Essentially Ellington Competition (regional), local jazz festivals, and other venues. In 2016, Zach was selected to the jazz chair at the Virginia Music Educators Association under the direction of Jeff Coffin. In 2017, Zach was selected to play lead trombone in the Virginia All-State Jazz Ensemble directed by Dennis DiBlasio. He attended Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Summer Jazz Academy in 2017 and performed “A Tribute to J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding” at the American Trombone Workshop. He was selected to perform in the 2018 GRAMMY Band and is also a 2018 National YoungArts Foundation honorable mention winner in Jazz Trombone. Also, in 2017, Zach was the youngest finalist in the American Trombone Workshop Solo Jazz Competition in the history of the event.

Jordan Reifkind

Jazz guitarist and composer Jordan Reifkind, 17, recently graduated from Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), where he played guitar in their A Combo and Big Band. Outside of school, Jordan was a member of the Colburn Conservatory's top jazz combo under the direction of Lee Secard. Jordan was selected for the Grammy Jazz Session tour (2016, 2018); the 2017 Next Generation Jazz Orchestra that performed at the Montreal, Toronto, Rochester, and Monterey jazz festivals; the Berklee Global Jazz Institute Workshop that performed at the Newport Jazz Festival (2017, 2018), and the Thelonious Monk Institute Peer-to-Peer All-Star High School Sextet tours (2017, 2018). 

Jordan’s honors include receiving the Outstanding Soloist Award at Monterey’s 2018 Next Generation Jazz Festival; a 2017 DownBeat Magazine Student Music Award for his composition “Dualism”; a 2016 National YoungArts Merit Award; a National YoungArts Honorable Mention award (2017, 2018), and he was a Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Award Honorable Mention (2017, 2018). Jordan will be attending the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music this fall. This is his second year participating in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

Zack Shubert

Zack Shubert, 17, is a 12th grade pianist and composer at Carlmont High School’s Middle College Program in Belmont, California. He has been studying piano and music since the age of five and has studied jazz with Peter Horvath and classical with Jeremy Pass. Zack has received three individual DownBeat Student Music Awards for Middle School and High School Soloist and Composition. Most recently, his honors include the 2018 DownBeat Jazz Soloist High School Winner Award and High School Outstanding Performance award for Original Composition—Small Ensemble, where he was featured on the cover of the Student Music Awards issue. He has won seven DownBeat Student Music Awards as a four-year member of the California Jazz Conservatory Advanced High School Workshop I and a three-year member of the SFJAZZ High School All-Star Combo and Big Band and has recorded several albums with these groups. A 2018 YoungArts winner, Zack has been selected for scholarships including the California Band Directors Association Scholarship for Excellent Musicianship and Best Promising Jazz Talent and the Dick Conte Jazz Piano Scholarship, as well as various recognitions from programs such as Stanford Jazz Workshop, Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony, and the California All-State Middle School and High School Jazz Ensembles. Zack was recently selected in 2018 as an Emerging Artist by Jazz in the Neighborhood and as a Rising Star with the California Jazz Conservatory. Zack has had the opportunity to travel to festivals such as the JEN conference in New Orleans; Charles Mingus Festival in New York; Swing Central Jazz Festival, in Savannah, Georgia; and the Next Generation Jazz Festival, in Monterey, where he won numerous outstanding soloist awards. Zack has had the privilege of collaborating and sharing the stage with musicians and jazz legends including Ravi Coltrane, Mark Turner, Robin Eubanks, Billy Hart, Joshua Redman, Stefon Harris, Sean Jones, Taylor Eigsti, Azar Lawrence, David Weiss, the Cookers, Mary Stallings, and the SFJAZZ Collective. He regularly performs throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California. This is his first year in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

Joe Turgeon

Bass trombonist Joe Turgeon, 17, is a senior at Jesuit High School in Sacramento, Calif. where he plays in their orchestra, wind ensemble, and jazz band. Joe has been a musician all his life. His first and most important music teacher was his dad, the late Mike Turgeon, an accomplished jazz bassist and guitarist. While at Jesuit, Joe has received many music awards including outstanding soloist scholarships from the Folsom and Fullerton jazz festivals. In addition to bass trombone, Joe is also an accomplished tubist. Joe has studied under the bass trombonist Jeff Reynolds of the LA Philharmonic, Latin-jazz trombonist Francisco Torres; studio bass trombonist Bill Reichenbach; and tuba soloist Patrick Sheridan. He currently studies under Ron Cunha, legendary Sacramento trombonist and band leader. Additionally, Joe has been selected to play in several prestigious bands. He has performed in his section honor band since seventh grade and is a two-time California All-State jazz musician on bass trombone. In 2018, Joe was selected as the bass trombonist for the Jazz Band of America, under the direction of Jeff Rupert, featuring trumpeter Sean Jones. At home, Joe runs his own jazz combo and brass quintet. Joe also has growing interest in arranging and composition and has written for his own projects as well as for the Jesuit jazz band and symphony orchestra. This is Joe’s first year in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

Michael Wang

Drummer Michael Wang, 17, is a graduate of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California, where he was a member of the school’s jazz ensemble and combo. Michael began his musical career with the guitar and piano in second grade and later studied classical viola before shifting focus to jazz and marching percussion in high school. He has since been studying drums with Akira Tana. During his senior year in high school, Michael was a member of the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars Big Band and Combo where he continued his studies on the drums and had the opportunity to compose and arrange. Michael is also an alumnus of several other ensembles including the Stanford University Jazz Orchestra and the Stanford Jazz Workshop (SJW) Miles Ahead Big Band. Michael attended the SJW’s Advanced High School Summer Intensive program for several years and has also interned at the Workshop and taught at their improvisation classes. Michael has had the opportunity to perform at the Next Generation Jazz Festival, the Savannah Music Festival, the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest, and Jazz in the Neighborhood. Michael has shared the stage with Jon Faddis, Robin Eubanks, Matt Penman, and Branden Lewis. In the fall of 2017, Michael will attend the Manhattan School of Music to study jazz drums. This is his first year in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

Kate Williams

Trumpeter Kate Williams is a graduate of Vanden High School in Fairfield, Calif. She has grown up in Vacaville, California and Anchorage, Alaska, where she has studied with Evgeny Chernonog, Jon Ruff, Ben Paille, and Erik Jekabson. Growing up in a musical family, Kate has been playing trumpet since the fourth grade and has been composing and arranging since seventh grade. In 2015, she joined the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars Combo and Big Band. Kate is also a member of the California Jazz Conservatory (CJC) Advanced High School Workshop, directed by Michael Zilber. She has also played around the Bay Area with the Electric Squeezebox Orchestra, Akira Tana, the Marcus Shelby Big Band, and others. In 2017, she won the DownBeat Student Music Award for Jazz Arranging, as well as an Outstanding Composition Award. In 2018, she won the DownBeat Student Music Award for both Composition and Arrangement. Other DownBeat awards include the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars Big Band and Combo wins in 2016 and 2017, and the CJC Workshop in 2017 as well. Kate has also played in the California All-State Jazz Band, the Anchorage Youth Symphony, and the Berklee 5-week Jazz Workshop. She has also attended the Stanford Jazz Workshop for three years, where she studied with Joshua Redman, Ambrose Akinmusire, and Ingrid Jensen. She will attend the Brubeck Institute at University of the Pacific in the fall of 2018 and hopes to pursue a career as a special education teacher. This is her second year in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.