Valencia jazz ensemble celebrates DownBeat recognition 

Valencia High School's Two 'N Four wins The DownBeat Student Music Awards. Courtesy of Christine Mocha.
Valencia High School's Two 'N Four wins The DownBeat Student Music Awards. Courtesy of Christine Mocha.

Ending the school year on a high note, Valencia High School’s Two N’ Four Vocal Jazz Ensemble is celebrating winning the “Large Vocal Jazz Ensemble” high school category in DownBeat Magazine.  

According to Valencia High School Choral Director Chrstine Mocha, the awards were established in 1976, and hundreds of musicians, music educators and music professionals have been internationally recognized through the awards.  

In an impressive feat — or rather, tradition — the ensemble has received this recognition nearly every year since 2015, excluding a year or two, according to Mocha. 

The prestige has allowed past winners to receive full-ride scholarships to colleges, as well, according to Mocha.  

“This is the highest honor in jazz education. There’s always one winner from around the whole country, and this year the students got it,” Mocha said. 

Mocha submitted live recordings from the ensemble’s National American Choral Directors Association performance in Ohio. The deadline to submit recordings from 2023 was in December. 

“We took three live performances, and the reason they want it live is they want to hear that it hasn’t been changed, over-produced. If you hear people clapping, that’s actually a good thing because they want to know that it hasn’t been pitch-shifted,” Mocha said. “We got contacted in February, asking who the soloists were on the track.” 

The “Outstanding Soloists” recognized were Emily Dibene and Isabel Pierson, who performed “I’ll Fly Away” by Albert Brumley. 

“I’m so proud of our students. They work extremely hard for this type of award because it is the highest award you can get in jazz education,” Mocha said. “Having a DownBeat Magazine Award means doors opening for them in other parts of the country if they’re applying in music and theater, anything in performing or visual arts.” 

The following students are a part of the ensemble: James Stockman, Ella Ray, Lucas Santos, Daniel Heringer, Donovan Krejcarek, Tomi Lessis, Steviejane Petree, Bella Petree, Matt Roco-Calvo, Maya Shankar, Emma Henao, Callia Cheshire, Rebekah Puettman, Marcus Espinosa, Promiz Thomas, Emily Dibene, Isabel Pierson, Francis Kalaw and Nathan Egami. 

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