Two Elmhurst College students and a recent alumnus took high honors in this fall’s Jazz Composition and Jazz Arrangement competitions, sponsored by the Luminarts Cultural Foundation at the Union League Club of Chicago.
Elmhurst senior Jon Rarick won first place for arranging in the College category, with his adaptation of Miles Davis' “Seven Steps to Heaven.” Elmhurst alum Andrew Ecklund, who graduated in February, took second place for arranging in the Young Adult category, with his adaptation of “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?” by Eddie DeLange and Louis Alter. Elmhurst junior Kenny Thompson took second place for composition in the College category with his original work, titled “Conditions.”
The winners were recognized during a ceremony on November 13 at the Union League Club of Chicago. They also received cash prizes of $950 for first place and $750 for second place.
Works for the competition were submitted by nearly 50 young musicians from a number of distinguished schools, including not only Elmhurst College but also the Berklee College of Music, Northwestern University, Oberlin College, the University of Chicago and DePaul University.
The purpose of the competitions is two-fold: to recognize young musicians while also providing a benefit to the local music scene.
"You see the great things our award winners go on to do, such as perform with the Lyric Opera, and it shows how we are enhancing Chicago's cultural community," Luminarts Executive Director Jason Kalajainen said about his organization, which previously was known as the Union League Civic and Arts Foundation.
Rarick, a double major in music theory/composition and jazz studies from Grayslake, Illinois, considers his first-place win a testament to his diverse Elmhurst education and the quality of the College's music department.
"Everything I've learned about arranging comes from my courses and lessons at Elmhurst," he said. "I had started writing for ensembles in high school but didn't have the formal training until I came here. It definitely provided me the structure I didn't have before."
He's also excited to share his award with his jazz studies teachers and colleagues. "I'm happy to represent Elmhurst because there's such a sense of community here, especially with the Jazz Band," he said.
Doug Beach, Elmhurst's director of jazz studies, jazz band and arranging, describes all three award recipients as wonderful musicians and deserving of formal recognition for their work. “It speaks to the quality of the students that we have here and the teaching that's happening,” he says. “We think it's great to see that proof.”
Kenny Thompson, a jazz studies major from Deerfield, Illinois, is glad he listened to Elmhurst instructor Mike Pinto when he suggested that Thompson submit his piece for the contest.
“I sort of did it on a whim, and am thankful I did,” Thompson says. “My background is more in performance than composing, but this award encourages me to continue on the composing side.”
Recent graduate Andrew Ecklund, from Lake Villa, Illinois, who double majored in jazz studies and business and currently works as a commercial music writer, submitted the arrangement he used for his senior recital at Elmhurst.
He says that his award and career show how the program's coursework can translate to real-world success. “All of the music faculty prepared me in some way,” he says. “There isn't one skill you learn here that won't help you out in some other area of music.”