Home Music Lawrence University named a winner in 2020 DownBeat awards

Lawrence University named a winner in 2020 DownBeat awards


A national music publication will once again proclaim what Fox Valley jazz fans have long known.

There’s some spectacular music to be found at Lawrence University.

Its jazz program was named a winner this week in DownBeat’s 43rd annual Student Music Awards. It’s the third consecutive year in which the university has been honored.

The LU Jazz Band, performing as a Latin Jazz/Afro-Cuban ensemble, earned a Latin Group award in the awards program.

The Latin Jazz/Afro-Cuban endeavor started out as a bit of an exploration. A number of students in the Conservatory of Music expressed interest in expanding their knowledge and skills in Afro-Cuban music. 

Jose Encarnacion, an assistant professor of music and director of Jazz Studies, and two students from the percussion studio, Alex Quade and Nolan Ehlers, happened to be in the process of learning to play Bata music, sacred African music of the Yoruba people of Nigeria, Africa.

“Nolan had been in Cuba studying abroad, learning about Afro-Cuban rhythms and traditions,” Encarnacion said. “I found these conditions to be perfect timing for converting Jazz Band into a Latin Jazz/Afro-Cuban ensemble. In collaboration with Nolan, we put a concert together.”

The award recognizes the performance from the concert, Afro-Cuban Roots and Traditions

Lawrence University has won 29 DownBeat awards overall in categories including large ensemble, small group, jazz composing, jazz arranging, solo performance and jazz vocal group. 

The 2020 awards will be featured in DownBeat’s June edition. This year’s award is Lawrence’s first Latin Group honor.