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DownBeat Magazine awards first prize to jazz arrangement by Damien Blair of MPS

Milwaukee High School of the Arts is celebrating after senior Damien Blair was awarded first place for his jazz arrangement of “Moon River.” Damien entered his a cappella arrangement for eight voices into the 45th annual DownBeat Magazine Student Music Awards this year and was recently named the winner in his category among students attending performing arts high schools.

Damien BlairThe Downbeat Magazine awards are considered among the top student music competitions in the world. The competition offers categories for junior high, high school, and university music students and bands. The judges, comprised of professional musicians and educators, assess entrants based on criteria that include musicianship, creativity, improvisation, technique, sound quality and balance, excitement, and authority. The awards were announced this spring.

The award earned by Damien this year marks the eighth time since 2014 that MHSA students have been recognized by this prestigious organization. “Damien is an exceptional musical talent,” said Raymond Roberts, vocal music director at MHSA. “He is an amazing singer who gravitates toward all genres: classical, musical theater, jazz, gospel. His future in music is limitless, and we can all look forward to incredible compositions from him as he matures and develops his craft.”

Damien will attend Baylor University in fall and plans to major in music. Listen to his arrangement of “Moon River” on the MPS YouTube page.

MHSA students select an arts-focused major (creative writing, dance, music, theater, or visual art) and receive at least two class hours of instruction per day focused on their major. Students commit to one area of the arts for all four years at the school. In addition to its focus on the arts, MHSA provides an academically challenging educational program that includes Advanced Placement and honors courses. Students may select from more than 12 AP courses for both high school and college credit.

To learn more about Milwaukee High School of the Arts, visit the school webpage.

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