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Jazz Program


The jazz program at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts has long enjoyed tremendous success and recognition on the national stage, and the tradition continues. Jazz is a component of the band program proper. Our philosophic mission is to nurture comprehensive musicianship with our students.


In 2016, Don Zentz assumed the reins of the jazz program from retiring founding director Ace Martin. Martin had led the DA Jazz Ensemble to top honors at the 2006 Essentially Ellington competition in New York City, as chronicled in the movie “Chops.” Zentz had been the Director of Fine and Performing Arts at The Bolles School in Jacksonville for a dozen years prior and, previous to this post, had received much acclaim for his work in jazz education at the University of North Florida, Valdosta State University, and Florida Community College at Jacksonville. Under Zentz’s leadership over the past nine years at Douglas Anderson, students within the jazz element of the band program have amassed significant achievements. These accomplishments serve as marks of excellence in the world of music education and most remarkable is the number of recognitions in recent times.


For the past two years, the Douglas Anderson SOTA Jazz Ensemble I and Jazz Combo won the National Jazz Festival for high school jazz bands with Zentz being named Jazz Educator of the Year in 2022. DownBeat Magazine has recognized the DA flagship jazz ensemble as one of the top high school jazz bands in the country via their Student Music Awards. This was the eighth consecutive year that DA Jazz Ensemble I either won their category or placed runner-up. Individual student accomplishments include selection to the national NYO Jazz Ensemble sponsored by Carnegie Hall, the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra affiliated with the Monterey Jazz Festival, and the NafME national honor jazz ensemble. Each year, a handful of DA jazz students are selected to the Florida All-State Jazz Band.


In the Fall of 2021, the DA Jazz Combo received its first invitation to perform on the national stage - the 2022 Jazz Education Network (JEN) conference in Dallas. The six-piece combo was formed as part of the DA jazz program the year prior. The DA Jazz Ensemble I performed at 2023 WIBC/Seattle, 2023 JEN/Orlando, 2017 JEN/New Orleans, and then The Midwest Clinic in Chicago later that year.


Other noted national achievements include winning the 2021 Basically Basie and 2017 Swing Central national jazz band competitions. Every other year a major guest artist performs on the DA Spring Jazz Night. Ernie Watts, John Fedchock, and Scotty Barnhart have been past artists with Mike Tomaro contracted for Spring of this school year. The DA Jazz Ensemble I opens for the Great American Jazz Series at the University of North Florida each October and performs with their guest artist. These artists have included Steven Feifke, Joel Frahm, Jim McNeeley, Gary Lindsay, and Dave Steinmeyer. The Douglas Anderson SOTA has a tremendous relationship with the annual Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Noted Douglas Anderson jazz alumni include Jamison Ross, Bob Reynolds, Ulysses Owens, Alphonso Horne, Theo Crocker, Owen Broder, Barry Cooper, and Daniel Dickinson.

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