WEST NEWBURY — How is it that Pentucket’s Jazz Combo keeps on bringing home gold? The answer may lie in an educator who not only encourages young musicians to dream of greatness but insists that they reach it.
For the second consecutive year, Pentucket’s top jazz ensemble took first place in their division at the Berklee College of Music’s High School Jazz Festival.
And for the first time, Pentucket swept the three Outstanding Musician awards handed out at the event as well — a feat Director of Jazz David Schumacher has never before witnessed at the festival.
Schumacher says he is “supremely proud” of the accomplishments of combo members Eddie Gaudet, Aubrey Harris, Emma Jones, Alden Slack and Josh Torvi. Gaudet, Harris and Torvi won the outstanding musician recognitions.
But with accolades repeatedly showering the combo year after year (the group has also taken third and fourth prize numerous times) it’s fitting to shine the light on the program’s creator as well.
In addition to directing jazz at Pentucket, Schumacher is a composer and bandleader who began his own schooling in jazz with Branford Marsalis and Andrew Spreight. For a decade he split his time between Massachusetts and New York City, where he was co-leader of the 17-piece band Sound Assembly. He now own and operate DS Music Studios in Newburyport.
For the past 13 years he’s brought his top jazz musicians each winter to compete at Berklee in the largest festival of its kind. Now in its 45th year, the event features over 200 high school jazz groups from 137 schools in 14 states. The competition is divided into three categories — Large Ensembles, Combo Ensembles and Vocal Jazz Ensembles. To ensure fairness, schools compete within divisions based on student enrollment. The ensembles are adjudicated by Berklee’s faculty, who issue written performance critiques.