2024 Awardees

2024 awards

Each year, JEN is proud to recognize the efforts of hard-working students and educators, who are engaged in creating excellence and making an impact in jazz education. The following awards were presented a the 2023 JEN Conference in Dallas, Texas. 

Nominations OPEN Spring 2024

Ellis Marsalis, Jr. Educator of the Year Award

John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year Award

LeJENds of Latin Jazz Award

LeJENds of Jazz Education Award 

Donald Meade Legacy Griot Award

Presidents’ Service Award


Duane Shields Davis, originally from Cleveland, has taught 54 years, which included The Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grand Rapids Community College, Western Michigan University, the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. He served as Chorus Master for Opera Grand Rapids for 31 years.


Duane’s awards include the Legacy Award presented by the Grand Rapids Symphony and the Maynard Klein Award for Choral Excellence presented by the American Choral Directors Association of Michigan. His ensembles have toured the U. S., Bahamas, Canada, Japan and Europe. Duane has conducted in Carnegie, Avery Fisher and Alice Tully Halls and the Kennedy Center. He has conducted All-State Choirs in 12 states and as well as festivals in 8 Canadian Provinces. 


Duane’s compositions and arrangements has been performed by the Grand Rapids and Battle Creek Symphonies, Western Michigan University Gold Company, to name a few. With Gold Company, he has conducted the ensemble at theNational Induction of Inventors in Washington D.C,, the Polyfolia International Festival in Normandy, France and Choralies Festival in Vaisonla-Romaine, France. He regularly conducts the Grand Rapids Symphony at the annual Symphony With Soul concert. His has prepared ensembles and shared the stage with such artists as Bobby McFerrin, Kurt Elling, Terrence Blanchard, Janis Siegel, Joe Williams, Dianne Reeves, Tony Bennett, Take 6, Lalah Hathaway, New York Voices, Marcus Roberts, Lizz Wright and others. 


Duane served as director of The Disney-Grammy All-American College Singers, and conducted the opening ceremonies for the Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom. He has served as a guest artist/clinician in Riga, Latvia and was a guest presenter in Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan, for the 7th World Symposium on Choral Music as well as the DODDS choral festival conductor in London, England. Duane served as Chorus Master for productions of Porgy and Bess and conducted the premiere of a chamber opera Afram ou la belle Swite, by Edmund Thornton Jenkins, at the Spoleto Festival USA, Charleston, South Carolina.

don zentz

Don Zentz is in his 39th year of an extraordinary career teaching school bands at all levels. Currently a high school director at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts for the past 9 years, Don has taught middle school and high school bands for 26 years. He was also a university professor and director for 13 years, serving at the University of North Florida (UNF), Florida Community College at Jacksonville (FCCJ), and Valdosta State University (VSU). Jazz education pioneer Rich Matteson hired Don onto the faculty of his newly formed jazz program at UNF in 1989. Don left UNF to return to his alma mater, Valdosta State University, to assume the role of Director of Jazz Studies and saxophone professor upon the retirement of his mentor, Bob Greenhaw. But our young family missed Jacksonville tremendously and we moved back “home” after two years.


Don has put his signature on a number of band programs over the years. At high schools and middle schools where jazz band had not been offered in the past, he would start a jazz band either before or after school, or at night. Inevitably, because of his passionate teaching and ability to motivate, one jazz band would grow to two jazz bands that eventually found their place as classes during the school day. In some schools, this meant Don would give up his planning periods to teach a jazz band, or his lunch periods to teach improvisation. His logical, sequential, and deliberate approach to teaching improv is recognized among his colleagues as innovating and produces student soloists who sound mature far beyond their years. He has a penchant for being able to bring abstract jazz concepts into the concrete so kids can readily grasp the idea and process. This yields a great sense of student confidence.


Don’s love and passion for music, jazz in particular, becomes infectious to his students. He builds relationships with them through captivating stories about the jazz masters, many of whom he has met and performed with. His sense of humor and grace with his students earns their trust and they feel safe in their attempts with jazz. His pacing is stellar, instinctively knowing when to move forward and when to slow down. Before jazz education icon Rich Matteson hired Don to join his jazz faculty at the University of North Florida, Don was a young director at Wolfson Senior High School in Jacksonville, FL. Both jazz ensembles earned straight superior ratings at State Jazz MPA. This was a first in state jazz history in Florida that both jazz bands from the same school were rated superior – that was a year where superior ratings at all were rare. Don had five students selected to the Florida All-State Jazz Band that year! These jazz bands also factored into overall Grand Champion status for the band program at a couple different national music festivals. He achieved these accolades as the sole director there, dedicating so many countless hours to his students and band program.


Currently, Don is serving as the Director of Jazz Studies at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, a performing arts high school in Jacksonville, FL. For the past 9 years he has been directing two jazz ensembles, jazz combo, symphonic band, pit orchestra for musicals, and teaching jazz history, music theory, and saxophone studio class. Yes, even in his 39th year, 70-hour work weeks continue to be his norm. The pit orchestra he led at DASOTA last school year for the musical “Chicago” won an Applause Award for being the most outstanding high school pit in the state. Student development and progress certainly fuels his fire, along with having such high standards of excellence as expectations. He is the most student-centered music educator that I know. His students have been selected for national honor jazz bands that include NYO Jazz, Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, and the NafME. Over Don’s career, some 50 of his students have made the All-State jazz ensembles of Florida and Georgia. Don knows how life-changing these type of enrichment events can be. He made all-state bands in Florida while in junior and senior high school. This is how he met Rich Matteson in 1979.


Don brought the jazz component of the DASOTA band program back to the national stage after a ten-year dormancy. Under his direction, the top DASOTA Jazz Ensemble performed at 2017 JEN/New Orleans, 2018 Midwest Clinic, won Swing Central 2017, won Basically Basie 2021, and have won or were cited for Outstanding Performance honors in their category with the DownBeat Magazine Student Music Awards during his tenure. In addition to these distinctions, jazz accolades factored in mightily to the DASOTA Band program receiving the National Band Association’s Blue Ribbon Award for Excellence and the National Grammy Award. Most recently, the DA Jazz Combo and Jazz Ensemble 1 won the 2022 and 2023 National Jazz Festivals, the jazz ensemble performed at JEN/Orlando with Ernie Watts as the guest artist, the combo performed at the 2022 JEN/Dallas conference, the jazz ensemble won the DownBeat caption for high school large jazz ensembles, and Jazz Ensemble I has been invited to perform at the 2023 Western International Band Conference in Seattle – which they will be doing in November.

During Don’s 13 years as a college professor, his collegiate jazz ensembles earned numerous accolades. They won the National Collegiate Jazz Festival, took top honors at the Notre Dame Jazz Festival, produced several critically acclaimed CD’s, performed on the international stage at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, and received DownBeat Student Award recognitions. As part of the UNF Great American Jazz series, they presented concerts with over 50 major jazz artists whose names read like a Who’s Who of Jazz. These include Herbie Hancock, Joe Lovano, Arturo Sandoval, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Eddie Daniels, and Maria Schneider. He has received Teacher of the Year awards, Professor of the Year awards, and Florida Board of Regents citations for teaching excellence. In 1999, DownBeat Magazine recognized Don with their Jazz Education Achievement Award.


Don and I met in college as music education majors, and we married 38 years ago. During these years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to witness first-hand the tremendous intensity for excellence Don exhibits in all that he does. He settles for nothing less than his best. His career glows with a sense of authenticity and uncommon achievement and consistency over many years. His influence on a tremendous number of students over the years has been nothing short of amazing both in terms of musical growth and human development! When you walk into one of Don’s rehearsals, you are immediately struck by the climate of purpose, passion, expertise, respect, team spirit, and love that permeates the room. He earns the respect of students with his ability to perform at a high level while conveying the “how to” on their level. He has inspired countless students and teachers alike in so many ways and at every level in education for a very long time. When Don comes home from directing an honor band, it’s common for him to receive emails, letters, and even gifts weeks later from students who had him as their musical leader for a few days! He makes an impact everywhere he goes.


Don is a highly accomplished musician as a saxophonist and woodwind doubler. He has been a Keilwerth Saxophones performing artist and clinician since 1995. For over twenty years he was a per service saxophonist with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and you will find him in the pit orchestras for off-Broadway musicals that come into Jacksonville and travel through Florida. Don was a member of the St. Johns River City Band, Florida’s Official Band, for over 30 years ending his tenure as conductor and musical director. He also directed the youth band of this organization for eight years. Students that came through his youth band include Ulysses Owens, Jr., Alphonso Horne, Theo Coker, and Bob Reynolds. Throughout the 1990’s, Don played lead alto on The Fabulous Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra’s southeastern ghost band unit.


Don’s service to jazz education goes beyond teaching, performing, and directing. It is leadership as well. He served two terms as president of the Florida Unit of IAJE in the mid-1990’s and instituted a state jazz workshop for high school students. In the last year of being president, some 350 students attended the two-day workshop. The workshop galvanized the unit and membership rose to new heights! Don and I also presented a Jazzin’ It Up educational concert series for elementary kids, teaching them about America’s music. School districts from around the northeast Florida region participated and over an eight year run, we served some 20,000 students!! Don has served as the senior member on the jazz committee of the Florida Bandmasters Association (FBA) for the past 8 years. He also leads the jazz adjudication recertification seminars twice a year for FBA. He has been an FBA adjudicator for over 30 years and also does jazz judging for Festival Disney and Music USA. He has presented jazz clinics at the state Florida Music Educators Association conference eleven times, played in the new chart reading band for 25 years, and two years ago served as the keynote clinician for the inaugural Jazz Institute component of the FBA summer conference. Don’s articles have appeared in the Music Educators Journal, The Instrumentalist, and the Florida Music Director. He is a contributing author to the upcoming 3rd edition of Teaching JAZZ Through Performance published by GIA.


Don’s commitment to musical excellence is only surpassed by his love for his family. He is a devoted husband and protective, loving father. He is also a loyal son who would do anything for his parents. In short, Don is a high caliber person who works tirelessly for his students. I write this letter not as his wife, but as the only person who has witnessed first-hand his amazing career day by day from year one to now. He never ceases to amaze me. Two years ago the National Jazz Festival named Don their Jazz Educator of the Year. He was also just inducted into the Jacksonville Jazz Festival Hall of Fame.


I’ve looked up John LaPorta. He was quite active in both traditional and jazz idioms as a director and player. That has been a hallmark for Don as well, saying since I’ve known him that his love for music stretches from Beethoven to Bird! Don has conducted all- state, district, and county honor bands in BOTH jazz and symphonic genres throughout his career. His work with the Jacksonville Symphony reflects both. Don and I made up the clarinet section of the Albany Symphony Orchestra (Georgia) for five years and, most recently, we were the principal and co-principal clarinetists of the First Coast Wind Symphony here in Jacksonville. Then the board made Don associate conductor. LaPorta taught at the public school and college levels, as has Don. LaPorta worked with Jack Petersen at Berklee. Don worked with Jack Petersen at UNF and played many gigs with him around the Jacksonville area. LaPorta went to school with Buddy DeFranco. Don had Buddy DeFranco and Terry Gibbs in for a residency at UNF and has long said it was among the best handful of experiences of all the artists he has had the opportunity to work with. I have included a short clip of Don playing jazz clarinet. LaPorta got his start with the big bands during that era. As a high school student, Don started playing professionally in the big bands around the Daytona Beach area at the Bandshell on the beach. He has played in the touring ghost bands of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Cab Calloway, Guy Lombardo, and then for a decade with the Jimmy Dorsey southeastern ghost band outfit. Some interesting parallels.

oscar hernandez

4X Grammy Award Winner Oscar Hernández has long been considered one of the most gifted and prominent pianist/ arrangers on the contemporary Latin, Latin-jazz and salsa music scene. He has achieved legendary status for his prolific career spanning now over 40 years. 


Oscar Hernández is the leader of the world renowned Spanish Harlem Orchestra. With their eight CD’s to date, Oscar and SHO, as they are commonly known, were nominated for a Grammy on their first CD “Un Gran Dia En El Barrio,” won the Grammy for their second CD release,” Across 110th Street” and nominated for their third CD “United We Swing”, and winning yet another Grammy with their 4th CD “Viva La Tradición” and won their 3rd Grammy with “Anniversary” in 2019. SHO has been nominated 5 times.Oscar was the music producer as well as pianist/arranger on all CD’s. Since the band’s inception in the year 2001, SHO has garnered numerous awards and world acclaim as one of the finest exponents of Salsa and Latin/Jazz music. Spanish Harlem Orchestra is generally considered one of the best Salsa & Latin-Jazz Orchestras today and one of the finest music ensembles in the world. 


Their last CD titled, “Imagenes Latinas”, was nominated for a Grammy. 


Oscar’s career as a professional began in the 70’s performing and recording with such seminal artists as Ismael Miranda, Ray Barreto, Celia Cruz, Conjunto Libre, Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez & Grupo Folklorico. Oscar was responsible for charting the musical course of the Rubén Blades Band. “Seis Del Solar”. Increasingly in demand as a pianist, arranger and producer, the Bronx native has produced such artists as Ruben Blades, Paul Simon, Willie Colón “Carabali”, Daniel Ponce, Rafael Dejesus, Eddie Torres, Phil Hernandez, Steve Kroon, Juan Luis Guerra, etc. and than made a more personal statement with the debut CD’s “Decision” and “Alternate Roots” by his band Seis Del Solar the Rubén Blades Band sans Rubén, and now with his 3X Grammy Award winning band, Spanish Harlem Orchestra. 


In addition to being Rubén Blades pianist, arranger and musical director, Oscar Hernández has enjoyed a prolific musical career recording and performing with such world renown artists as Latin music king Tito Puente, Queen of Salsa Music Celia Cruz, Latin Pop Star Julio Iglesias, Juan Luis Guerra, Ray Barreto, Earl Klugh, Dave Valentin, Johnny Pacheco, Ismael Miranda, Pete”Conde” Rodríquez, Oscar De’leon, Luis “Perico” Ortiz, “Libre’ “Grupo Folkorico Experimental”, Willie Colón, Kirsty MacColl, etc. Oscar’s musical exploits include working as Musical Director/Conductor, arranging and producing the music for “The Capeman,” pop-rock icon Paul Simon’s Broadway musical. In addition, Oscar is also the music producer of “The Capeman” cast recording. Oscar was Musical Director/Arranger for the hit shows “Quien Mato A Hector Lavoe” and “La Lupe” at the 47th Street Theatre. He was also, Music Supervisor/Arranger for the show “Four Guys named Jose & Una Mujer named Maria.” 


Oscar’s work as a studio session player can also be heard on numerous commercial jingles, some of which he has written and arranged. Among those is the hit show “Sex and the City.” 


In addition to having firmly established his reputation as an excellent musician and producer/arranger, Oscar has composed music for film having scored the music for the film documentaries, “If The Mango Tree Could Speak” by Pat Goudvis &”Angela Tiene Un Bebé” by Paula Heredia, HBO’s “Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story” and Cuban Roots/Bronx Stories by Pam Sporn. 


In addition to leading New York’s Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Oscar also has released 3 CD’s as a solo artist, Oscar Hernández & Alma Libre, titled“ The Art of Latin Jazz” and “Love The Moment on Origin Records, & Visión on his own Label Ovation Records. 


Oscar Hernández also worked as arranger and orchestrator on the new Gloria Estefan Broadway musical, “On Your Feet”, which is garnering rave reviews and critical acclaim. He continues to be in demand as one of the top pianists, arranger/composers and bandleaders in his field.


Celebrating 40 years in music, NEA Jazz Master and four-time GRAMMY® award-winning drummer, producer and educator, Terri Lyne Carrington started her professional career in Massachusetts at 10 years old when she became the youngest person to receive a union card in Boston. She was featured as a “kid wonder” in many publications and on local and national TV shows. After studying under a full scholarship at Berklee College of Music, Carrington worked as an in-demand musician in New York City, and later moved to Los Angeles, where she gained recognition on late night TV as the house drummer for both the Arsenio Hall Show and Quincy Jones’ VIBE TV show, hosted by Sinbad.


While still in her 20’s, Ms. Carrington toured extensively with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, among others. In 2011 she released the GRAMMY® award-winning album, The Mosaic Project, featuring a cast of all-star women instrumentalists and vocalists, and in 2013 she released, Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue, which also earned a GRAMMY® Award, establishing her as the first woman ever to win in the Best Jazz Instrumental Album category.


To date Ms. Carrington has performed on over 100 recordings and has been a role model and advocate for young women and men internationally through her teaching and touring careers. She has toured or recorded with luminary artists such as Al Jarreau, Stan Getz, Woody Shaw, Clark Terry, Diana Krall, Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, James Moody, Yellowjackets, Esperanza Spalding, Kris Davis, Chaka Khan, Natalie Cole, and Nancy Wilson.


In 2019 Ms. Carrington was granted The Doris Duke Artist Award, a prestigious acknowledgment in recognition of her past and ongoing contributions to jazz music. Also in 2019, her collaborative project, Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science (formed with Aaron Parks and Matthew Stevens), released their album, Waiting Game, inspired by the seismic changes in the ever-evolving social and political landscape. The double album expresses an unflinching, inclusive, and compassionate view of humanity’s breaks and bonds through an eclectic program melding jazz, R&B, indie rock, contemporary improvisation, and hip-hop. Waiting Game was nominated for a 2021 GRAMMY® award and has been celebrated as one of the year’s best jazz releases by Rolling Stone, Downbeat, Boston Globe and Popmatters. Downbeat describes the album as, “a two-disc masterstroke on par with Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 hip-hop classic, ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’…” and garnered three of their critics poll awards, Album of the Year, Group of the Year and Artist of the Year. Ms. Carrington was also named Artist of the Year by Jazz Times Critics Polls, the Boston Globe, and the Jazz Journalists Association.


Ms. Carrington has received honorary doctorates from Manhattan School of Music, York University and Berklee College of Music, where she currently serves as the Founder and Artistic Director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, which recruits, teaches, mentors, and advocates for musicians seeking to study jazz with racial justice and gender justice as guiding principles.

She has curated musical presentations at Harvard University, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the John F. Kennedy Center, and has enjoyed multi-disciplinary collaborations with esteemed visual artists Mickalene Thomas and Carrie Mae Weems and is also the artistic director for Detroit’s multi-disciplinary arts organization, the Carr Center.


In 2022, the curator and activist authored two books; a children’s book entitled Three of a Kind, on the making of the Allen Carrington Spalding trio, and the seminal collection, New Standards:101 Lead Sheets By Women Composers, another illustration of how she has worked tirelessly to fight for inclusivity and raise the voice of women, trans and non-binary jazz musicians. Accompanying the book is her latest album, new STANDARDS vol.1, featuring 11 selections from the songbook with an all-star band.


The album, which ranges from ballads to experimental compositions, is timely and adventurous, exploring the multiverse of jazz, with Carrington (drums and percussion) joined by Kris Davis (piano), Linda May Han Oh (bass), Matthew Stevens (guitar), and Nicholas Payton (trumpet) and welcomes special guests trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, vocalists, Melanie Charles, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, electronic artist, Val Jeanty, guitarist, Julian Lage, flutist Elena Pinderhughes, percussionist Negah Santos and vocalists, Melanie Charles, Samara Joy, Michael Mayo, Dianne Reeves and Somi. In 2023, the album won a GRAMMY® Award for the best jazz instrumental album.


Carrington also curated a multi-media installation to accompany and expand on the message of the New Standards book and new STANDARDS vol. 1 album. The installation premiered at Detroit’s Carr Center, and was later featured at the Emerson Contemporary Media Art Gallery in Boston.This ambitious series of projects were created to shine a light on women composers in historic new ways.


Ms Carrington serves as co-executive producer and musical director for the newly formed Jazz Music Awards and is a 2022 inductee into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.



The Donald Meade Legacy Society Founders Award 2024 was established to honor the influence and commitment that Nathaniel Lawrence gave to not only the Donald Meade Legacy Society but to the jazz community in the Quad Cities and East Moline. 


During every JEN Conference, you would see “Nate” accompanying Donald Meade with his camera and documenting every move, conversation that he had. On many occasions, he would put together photo shoots and offer inspirational conversations with young and old. 



When Donald Meade passed, “Nate” was an integral part in continuing his legacy. Many at JEN were not aware (unless they talked to him) that he was the co/founder of “Polyrhythms” (w/Shellie Moore Guy), public relations savant, a neighborhood advocate, and curator of live music. This organization produced a “Third Sunday Jazz Series” (approaching its 3rd decade) that featured local and international artists. 


In 2013, Nathaniel developed the annual free “Bill Bell Jazz Festival” for the Quad Cities Community. He was comfortable being “behind the scenes” but was fierce advocate for human rights, city development and education. He served on several boards for revitalization projects in East Moline and helped developed the riverfront community. 


He mentored and served as a “Griot” to several young and old musicians (including David Baker-radio host KALA) and others throughout the jazz community in East Moline and internationally.


Nathaniel Lawrence passed away on August 15, 2023 in his home at the age of 80. We will share stories and offer an open forum for others to share about this remarkable man and his contributions as a true “Griot” to us all.


From African to America the “Griot” has shared the stories of the community with their musical and oral stories becoming a vital part of the tradition that is the “Jazz community.” Many people talk about jazz, its origins, and it’s meaning, but few remain to tell the story from first hand experience. 


At the age of 86, Donald Meade has walked with many of the jazz legends and innovators, and has traveled extensively with jazz giants such as Ed Thigpen, Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson, Milt Jackson, Cedar Walton, the Heath Brothers, Art Farmer and Ella Fitzgerald to name a few. This award, named in his honor, has been given to jazz musicians and advocates that continue to perpetuate

the rich cultural heritage of jazz through the oral story-telling tradition.


Past recipients include: Donald Meade; Dr. Willis Kirk Jr.; Dr. Larry Ridley;

Congressman John Conyers Jr, Larry Reni Thomas, and Willie Pickens.


Brian Casey is Assistant Professor of Acadmeic Jazz at the University of Northern Colorado, where he specializes in jazz history, pedagogy and performance. He holds a DMA in jazz studies from UC Boulder and an MM in jazz studies from the University of North Texas and has performed as a jazz bassist on the West Coast and in the Plains States for over thirty years. Dr. Casey has presented original research in jazz-related fields at many national and international conferences including those of the College Music Society, the Jazz Education Network and the International Society of Bassists.

charlotte lang

Swiss/Dutch saxophonist Charlotte Lang was born in 1996 in Basel and studied the bachelor and master program at the JAZZCAMPUS Basel under the guidance of Domenic Landolf and Daniel Blanc. She is currently studying the Master of Music in Global Jazz at the Berklee College of Music in Boston under the artistic direction of Danilo Pérez. In addition she is part of Terri Lyne Carrington’s Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice.


From 2015 to 2018, Charlotte she was a member of the Swiss National Youth Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Christian Muthspiel. Since 2020, she became a member of the German National Youth Jazz Orchestra (Bundesjazzorchester Deutschland), under the direction of Niels Klein and Ansgar Striepens. She also plays is the Austrian FJO (Frauen Jazz Orchester→Women Jazz Orchestra of Austria).


In 2021, Charlotte founded her own Quintet the „Charlotte Lang Group“, for what she is composing, arranging and booking. In the fall 2023, her first album will be recorded and hopefully released by a renowned label.


Charlotte plays in the “Swiss Jazz Orchestra” and the “Zurich Jazz Orchestra”, the two professional Big Bands of Switzerland.

Charlotte recently got the unique opportunity to write a monthly blog for the Swiss Jazz & Blues Magazine called JAZZTIME, to tell readers about her time at abroad and specifically her time at Berklee. Her graduate program lasts only until the summer of 2023. She hopes to stay in the United States to enlarge her network and build her musical career.