MiraCosta College Celebrates Top Honors in Esteemed DownBeat Magazine


The MiraCosta Music Department has received two 2022 Student Music Awards from the nation’s premier jazz magazine, DownBeat.

The MiraCosta Oceanside Jazz Orchestra, more commonly known as MOJO, was named the top large jazz ensemble in the community college category. This is the second time MOJO has received top honors from DownBeat Magazine. The first time the jazz ensemble was named top ensemble was in 2017.

In addition to MOJO being recognized by the jazz magazine, guitarist Adam White received an award for Outstanding Performance for a Jazz Soloist in the community college category.

Music Department Chair and Director of MOJO, Steve Torok, shared, “It feels great. DownBeat is the premier jazz publication in the world. We work very hard, and it just feels great to be acknowledged by them in this way.”

Torok explains that the process to submit for the Student Music Awards takes about a year. With COVID 19, Torok along with department sound engineer and recording instructor Matt Carruthers, found new ways to have students record their parts at home. Working from home allowed for a more flexible and collaborative process.

“It might sound kind of strange, but I think our new process results in better educational outcomes than the way we did things pre-COVID. Now I can easily hear what band members record individually, and can give them immediate feedback,” said Torok, “They then have ample time to absorb that feedback, make improvements, and resubmit their recordings. It is a process of continual assessment and improvement.”

Since the creation of the community college category in 2015, the MiraCosta Music Department has received 15 awards from DownBeat Magazine.

When asked about the ongoing success, Torok said, “I do think we have a culture of excellence that has developed over the years. A big part of it is certainly due to our excellent faculty, staff, resources, and enthusiastic support from the college administration. But it is also because of our amazing community musicians.”

“There are players in the ensemble that have been with us for years. So, there is a baseline of musicians that have been around longer, and are able to pass along both what it means and what is expected to be in the band,” Torok adds, “It is always exciting to see promising young musicians working alongside older community musicians. The formula really works, and it is mostly unique to the community college experience.”

Join the seven-time Downbeat award winners MOJO and the Jazz Collective for an exciting and high-energy concert as we welcome back trombonist, composer, arranger, and educator Francisco Torres on Saturday, May 7, from 7:30-9:30 p.m. in the MiraCosta College Concert Hall. Francisco was the last guest artist to perform with the bands before the pandemic. Things fittingly come full circle as he is also the first guest artist to perform with the bands after the pandemic lockdown. A free master class with Q&A will also be held at 1 p.m. Spectators can attend in person or watch via live stream. The concert will also be available via live stream for free.

Francisco is the musical director for the Grammy award-winning Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band, and a member of both Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band and John Beasley’s Monk’estra. His recording and performance credits include Aretha Franklin, Terence Blanchard, Dianne Reeves, Natalie Cole, James Moody, Roy Hargrove, Michael Buble, Dr. Dre, Busta Rhymes, Saturday Night Live, Dancing With The Stars, and America's Got Talent. Recent film work includes The Incredibles 2, Coco, and The Secret Life of Pets.

DownBeat Magazine was first published in 1934, and it is the premier jazz publication in the world. Student ensembles and soloists submit their recordings to a panel of jazz performers, recording artists, and top educators. Panelists then anonymously review all submissions before selecting winners.

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