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Local high school musicians honored at national jazz competition

Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School senior Spencer Gagnon of Granby, who won a Superior Musicianship Award for trumpet playing at a Boston jazz festival last weekend..

Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School senior Spencer Gagnon of Granby, who won a Superior Musicianship Award for trumpet playing at a Boston jazz festival last weekend.. Purchase photo reprints »

Three young musicians took home awards this month from the largest high school jazz festival in the country.

Jazz bands from Hampshire Regional High School, Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School and Easthampton High School and White Brook Middle School competed at the Berklee College of Music High School Jazz Festival in Boston on March 2. Competition was stiff at the festival, with over 3,000 students taking part. While the three ensembles did not place in the top of their respective categories, a few of their individual musicians impressed judges.

Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School senior Spencer Gagnon of Granby won a Superior Musicianship Award for trumpet playing. Frank Newton, music director at PVPA, said the fact that Gagnon won the award on his 18th birthday was “icing on the cake.”

“Spencer has always given 110 percent to his music and his school,” Newton said in an email to the Gazette. “He is an outstanding student and I can’t think of a more deserving person to win the award.”

From the Easthampton Learning Foundation band, made up of Easthampton high school and middle school students, senior trumpet player Bethany DiRocco won the Judge’s Choice Award for the best instrumentalist in the ensemble. Band Director Patrick Lennon said the award was an honor for DiRocco, “especially considering how much she’s grown as a musician.”

Hampshire Regional High School junior pianist Joseph Allen won the Judge’s Choice Award for the best instrumentalist in the ensemble.

Band Director Dara Adams-Smith said that while the band came in 12th out of 15 large jazz bands in its category, its score of 253 out of 300 points was the second highest score the ensemble has earned in five years competing at Berklee. The band moved into a more competitive category last year because the school’s population increased, she said.

“It was a great experience for the students,” Lennon said of the annual festival. “We got the chance to watch some really outstanding ensembles at both the high school and college levels.”

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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