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John Jay Jazz Group Shines at Berklee Festival

CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – John Jay High School music teacher Steve Morse called the school's participation this month in the Berklee College of Music's annual High School Jazz Festival competition one of the best experiences of life thanks to the award-winning performance of his students.

The John Jay Vocal Jazz Group and the John Jay High School Jazz Ensemble traveled to Boston to compete in the 44th annual festival. The vocal group finished third in its division (VJ1) – a division that consisted of the largest schools in the country. It was the highest John Jay has ever finished in the competition.

“This is my 29th year as a teacher and my 24th year going to the festival and I’ve never finished higher with any group,” said Morse, who directed the vocal jazz group. “I’ve never had a group that was so in tune. When they went up there on stage, my job was pretty much done.”

A panel of Berklee’s top faculty judges the annual event. Over 200 bands, combos and vocal jazz ensembles performed throughout the day, according to the school district. Participants also had the opportunity to tour the campus, participate in open jam sessions and hear performances by faculty, the school district said.

Trombonist Jeremy Sabath won a Judges’ Choice Award for the jazz ensemble’s performance, which was directed by Jeff Richardson. Singers Maddie Leddy, Paige Lester and Keely Bochicchio-Siposa received the only three outstanding musician awards in the VJ1 category. Leddy also was the Judges’ Choice Award winner at the afternoon adjudication.

“This is the largest event of its type in the country,” said Morse, who noted that the John Jay Vocal Jazz Group finished fourth during last year’s festival. “This year, we basically had a totally new group. We only had five kids returning from last year.”

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