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Temple University Jazz Band takes second place amid other honors at the Jack Rudin Jazz Championship

Temple University Jazz Band
Gabriela Bhaskar
Jazz at Lincoln Center
The Temple University Big Band competes in the 2023 Jack Rudin Jazz Competition at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Terell Stafford, director of the Temple University Jazz Band, has a custom after every edition of the Jack Rudin Jazz Championship in New York City. "I always call Wynton," he says, referring to Wynton Marsalis, his fellow trumpeter, bandleader and educator, and the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. "Or I text him, and say: 'What could we do better? What can I do to be a better resource for the program?'"

That sort of feedback is rare, Stafford says, and always welcome. After the 2022 edition, for example, Marsalis suggested that the band could work more on their shuffle groove; feature more soloists in competition; "and he said, 'Make sure your students write.'"

And so, for the third annual Jack Rudin Jazz Championship — held this past weekend at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York — the Temple University Jazz Band played a shuffle ("The Ponderous Pachyderm of the Planks," by Sherman Irby); spotlighted an array of soloists (in "Blue Room," a Bennie Moten tune from the early 1930s); and showcased a student composition (by trumpeter and Boyer College senior Banks Sapnar).

The result speaks for itself: the TUJB took second place in the overall competition, as well as Outstanding Section honors for its trumpet, trombone, saxophone and rhythm sections. Top individual honors went to pianist Anthony Aldissi, trombonist Drew Sedlacsik, bassist Dan McCain — and drummer Maria Marmarou, who also won the Earl Hines Outstanding Musician Award, the event's highest individual commendation.

"They won pretty much every award," Stafford says of the band. "We had a great mentor in the competition, Carlos Henriquez, and he opened our eyes to so much. And in the combo showcase, our combo played incredibly well." Perhaps with a touch of understatement, Stafford adds: "All in all it was a very good experience."

Temple University Jazz Band at 2023 Jack Rudin Jazz Championship
Gabriela Bhaskar
Jazz at Lincoln Center
The Temple University Jazz Band (led by Terell Stafford, far right) at the 2023 Jack Rudin Jazz Championship in New York.

Named after Jack Rudin — founding supporter of Jazz at Lincoln Center's flagship Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival — the Jack Rudin Jazz Championship is a two-day invitational for top college and university programs. Nine bands competed this year, with first place going to North Carolina Central University, under the direction of Robert Trowers. (Temple won first place in the event's inaugural year, and second place in 2022.) In addition to Marsalis, the judges' panel included Jeff Hamilton, Ted Nash, Catherine Russell and Bijon Watson.

"This year's Jack Rudin Jazz Championship was a celebration of the very best of the generation that will lead us into the future of jazz," Todd Stoll, Jazz at Lincoln Center's Vice President of Education, tells WRTI. "The main goal of this event is to continue to build the jazz community, and in the 'post-pandemic' world, this was accomplished to a much greater degree than before. The feeling of the music was a palpable measure of the viability of jazz in this time – truly bringing people together."

Jazz at Lincoln Center will post videos from the 2023 Jack Rudin Jazz Championship later this year. In the meantime, here is one from last year, featuring the TUJB performing a Carlos Henriquez composition, "2/3's Adventure."

The Temple University Jazz Band will return to Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 24, for its annual appearance at Dizzy's Club.