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Millikin University percussion ensembles in the School of Music were recognized with two awards in two different categories for DownBeat Magazine's 36th annual Student Music Awards. The awards will be featured in the June issue of the national music publication.

Millikin University's World Percussion Ensemble "Latin Jazz Project" won the Student Music Award for Outstanding Performance in the Latin Group Undergraduate College category, and the Chamber Percussion Ensemble won the award for Best Undergraduate College Classical Group.

"Accolades of national, international scope are always exciting," said Brian Justison, professor of music and director of Millikin's percussion ensembles. "It's especially gratifying to receive recognition across two different genres of music. Kudos to these students and to all School of Music faculty members who have contributed to their success."

Millikin's "Latin Jazz Project" is intent upon providing undergraduate students with the opportunity to explore playing techniques and rhythms from around the world with a special emphasis on Afro-Caribbean music. In addition to offering traditional Latin-jazz performances, the group's interest in combining elements of Western and non-Western music has given rise to an eclectic mix of jazz, pop, and world music engaging audiences throughout the region for nearly 20 years.

"Latin Jazz Project" members include Simon Nicholson, a senior from Decatur, Ill.; Colin Rambert '12 from Decatur, Ill.; Neal Johnson, a senior from Raymond, Ill.; Aaron Villarreal, a senior from Decatur, Ill.; Josh Dimmick, a senior from Indianapolis, Ind.; Sean McDonald, a senior from Decatur, Ill.; Carlos Cabrera, a junior from Decatur, Ill.; Matt Morgeson, a junior from Hoopeston, Ill.; and Adam Blakey, a senior from Decatur, Ill.

Aaron Villarreal added, "I am so fortunate to be a part of the Millikin 'Latin Jazz Project.' The group has evolved immensely over the last year, and this award signifies the hard work we all put into the music."

The Millikin Chamber Percussion Ensemble, under the direction of Brian Justison, has been widely acclaimed for its performances of concert repertoire for percussion instruments. Their debut CD, "Best Kept Secret," received laudable reviews from both Gramophone Magazine and Percussive Notes. The group has premiered more than 20 new works, including four such premieres at Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) showcase concerts. They released their second CD in the fall of 2012 comprised solely of works premiered by the ensemble.

The Chamber Percussion Ensemble features Jeffrey Bensmiller, a senior from Mount Pleasant, Iowa; Steven Berger, a senior from Topeka, Ind.; Josh Dimmick; Brian Hilderbrand, a senior from Arlington Heights, Ill.; Sean McDonald; Simon Nicholson; Wally Pochron, a sophomore from La Grange, Ill.; Colin Rambert; Graig Stasicky, a junior from Bradley, Ill.; and Aaron Villarreal.

As part of the DownBeat Magazine Student Music Awards competition, students record their music on a CD and submit it for judging by professional musicians and educators from across the country. Judging criteria is based on musicianship, creativity, improvisation, technique, sound quality and balance, excitement and authority. Awards were given in 13 different categories.

Millikin's School of Music is committed to developing complete musicians artistically, technically and intellectually by emphasizing the integration of theory and practice with other disciplines across the University. For more information on Millikin's School of Music, visit www.millikin.edu/music.
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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL