When the Butler University Jazz Ensemble was recording its entries for the DownBeat Student Music Awards last year, it was the first time David Richards had ever played in a studio. Now a rising junior in Jazz Studies, the bassist says recording sessions demand an even higher level of musicianship than some other performances—you want to really get it right.

That focus must have worked. Butler was recently named the undergraduate winner of DownBeat’s Large Ensemble category.

DownBeat is the jazz magazine,” Richards says. “To even be nominated for anything in DownBeat is a treat. So, to hear that we won was an extremely cool experience.”

Schools from all over the country submit recordings for these awards, says Matt Pivec, Director of Jazz Studies at Butler. This is the first time any Butler ensemble has won.

“We are so proud of these students, their professionalism, and their ability to work together toward a common goal,” Pivec says. “They’re receiving incredible guidance and instruction from our School of Music faculty. We had some students who really stepped up in their roles as soloists, and solos are such an important part of what we do. Outstanding individual performances really boost the collective performance.”

Richards says that team-focused attitude is a key aspect of the jazz program at Butler.

“There isn’t this constant competition between students that you sometimes see,” he explains. “It’s not about figuring out who the best musician is. At Butler, we all want to get better together.”


Butler Jazz Ensemble Members:

Zachary Weiler (Split Lead)
James Howard (Split Lead)
Xavier Robertson (Tenor 1)
Noah Holloway (Tenor 2)
Alex Sparks (Baritone)

Drew Soukup
Kent Hickey
Ari Badr
Tom Pieciak

Alec Fenne
Joe Weddle
Max Brown
Noah Zahrn (Bass)

Ethan Veliky (Guitar)
Eric Garcia (Guitar)
Isaac Beaumont (Bass)
David Richards (Bass)
Caleb Meadows (Piano)
Ben Urschel (Drums/Vibes)
Jonathan Padgett (Drums/Vibes)


Photo: Butler University Jazz Ensemble with guest artist Stefon Harris