George Duke Commissioning Prize Update

Thank you to all eligible ASCAP composers who submitted orchestral scores by the July 17th deadline, we had an overwhelming response! The Music Advisory Board of the SJO will be selecting the winning composer by this coming Fall. The newly commissioned work will be premiered by the 67-piece SJO in 2016/17. The George Duke Commissioning Prize was created to honor the legacy of the trailblazing musician, former Symphonic Jazz Orchestra (SJO) Co-Music Director and ASCAP board member, George Duke. 

The Symphonic Jazz Orchestra/George Duke Commissioning Prize is made possible in part by a grant from The ASCAP Foundation Louis Armstrong Fund and the Bart Howard Fund.

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Free Assemblies Program Highlights 99th Street Elementary

Each school year, as funding permits, the SJO offers free assembly programs to schools in underserved areas of Los Angeles County. These assembly programs give students the opportunity to hear live music, see musicians perform, and learn about music styles and history. Such experiences are rare and difficult to arrange in under served communities. After an assembly, students and teachers are so appreciative of their experience, they are often inspired to learn and hear more styes of music. Many teachers extend the music discussion into their classrooms, and some students are inspired to learn to play an instrument they saw demonstrated. Check out the assemly SJO provided this school year for 99th Street Elementary School in Watts. Unfortunately, due to lack of suffecient funds, this year we were only able to offer one free assembly program. If you, your business, or foundation would like to sponsor SJO's free assemblies program for the 2015-2016 school year, please contact Christine Johnson directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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SJO Happenings...


SJO’s Feature School of the Month

El Rincon Elementary School

    Culver City, CA 

The Final Third Grade Instrument Workshop Series of the School Year


Percussion Instruments

At El Rincon Elementary School, SJO teaches it's "Music in the School's" artist residency programming for 1st through 3rd graders.  Students in 1st grade receive 28 weeks of once weekly instruction in our “Intro to Music” and “Playing the Bells” program. While 2nd graders participate in our “Bach to Bebop” 28 week program receiving instruction once weekly as well.  Third grade students participate in our “Instrument Workshop Series”.

3rd Grade Instrument Workshop Series

String, woodwind, brass and percussion instruments are demonstrated by musicians and the students get a chance to play them during hour long workshop sessions. Professional musicians visit each of Culver City’s five elementary schools during the four month workshop period. SJO’s workshops are held in tandem with the school district’s band program opportunity, to give students a better understanding and receive a chance to play an actual instrument while deciding if they would like to join their school’s band. All elementary schools in the Culver City Unified School District (CCUSD) offer a band program, which continues into its middle and high schools.

Percussion History & Instruments Featured

Instruments from the percussion family were featured during last month’s workshop: 


For the percussion workshop, a quintet played a mini-concert demonstrating the various sounds of the various drums including snare, tom-toms, timpani, also demonstrated were the xylophone, wood blocks, triangles, and bells to name only a few. Musicians are from left to right; Scott Higgins,Timm Boatman, and Wally Snow. These musicians demonstrated the various sounds of each instrument and also gave a brief history about each.


After the introduction and performance, musicians and students form “try it” areas. The students rotate among each instrument’s area to get a try at playing each instrument. The timpani drum is very popular and xylophones are always cool sounding and fun to play!


About El Rincon Elementary School

El Rincon is one of five CCUSD elementary schools. Its enrollment for the 2014/15 school year was approximately 690 students. El Rincon has state-of-the-art science and computer labs which support their goal of providing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) education to students. STEM education is an interdisciplinary approach where academic concepts are coupled with real world applications. While focusing on STEM integration, they also have a continued emphasis on literacy which includes extensive reading in both academic and creative writing across all content areas.

For more information click here to be directed to the school’s website.



 Chris Coleman, Christian McBride, Dave Grusin, and Lee Ritenour 

Recording Session January 19, 2015 

SJO Concert & Recording of

George Duke's

"Dark Wood: Concerto for McBride"


Lee Ritenour's

"Symphonic Captain's Journey"

The 67- member Symphonic Jazz Orchestra with special guests Christian McBride, Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, John Beasley, Chris Coleman, and Marvin "Smitty" Smith played to a full house on Sunday January 18th at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at Cal. State Long Beach as part of it's "Arts for Life" series. This free community concert was conducted by SJO's Music Director Mitch Glickman, and featured George Duke's "Dark Wood: Concerto for McBride" and Lee Ritenour's "Symphonic Captain's Journey". 

On January 19th the SJO and it's special guests recorded the same music pieces. In addition to recording "Dark Wood" and "Symphonic Captain's Journey", pianist Bill Cunliffe joined the ensemble for the recording of "Rhapsody in Blue", the work that started the symphonic jazz genre 90 years ago.

The recording project is slated for release in late summer. If you would like to pre-order a CD for $25 please click here

SJO would like to again thank all of our supporters for your generous contributions. With your assistance, this recording became a reality!

George Duke Legacy Project Supporters 

For information about the George Duke Legacy Project, please click here 

Many thanks to those listed below and to those who made anonymous contributions. 

Chester & Tee Wang . Darlene Chan . Jinko Gotoh . Steve & Cindy Ruth . Stephen Bland . Nigel Williams. The Knossos Foundation . Michael Grienauer. Anne Finestone . Simon Goodall . Suzan Glickman . John Harris . Marty Ashby . Kit Thomas . Jason Bland . Dena Dahilig. C. Brown. Kristy Morris . Leslie Adler . Patrick Collins . Trey Madhyastha . Bruce Lubliner. Robert Rick. Connie Eicher Bland . Esther Cervantes . Tim Newenham . Barbara Jansen . Lester Gibo . Michael Banks . Lisa K. Karpf . Ray Robinson . Alex Shapiro. Kerri Glickman . Edward Dumlao . William R. Weathers . Stephen Rowe . Madeleine Crouch . Jay Goetting . Buell Neidlinger . Leonard & Caia Sasso . Edythe L. Bronston . Timothy Leaks . Darrell Spree . Johnny Walker . Geoff Bland . Cicely C. Mitchell . Adam Overacker . John Newcott . Peter Pelican . Nancy Gilliam . Alex Wallace . Calvin Smith . Sibyll . Tin Hoang & Leia Nghiemphu . Raul Midon . Clint Rosemond . Evelyn Vannozzi . Angela Flavors . Jericca Cleland . Ellyn Kusmin . Jonathan Charles . Barbara Abell . Booker White . Carolina Shorter . Chris Tucker . Darlene Martin . Audun Dertz . Mark Berg . Terri Coffsky . Leslie Baker . David Worrell . Gary Fry . James Goldenberg . Barry Tate . Betty C. Tuggle . Ken . Christine Whitaker . Genevieve Conaty . Steve Rubin . Andrew Papastephanou . Will Haines . Becky Brown . Jeff Mallory . Sean Barrett . James W. Wilson . Ralph Grierson . Rondi Charleston . Miles Porter . Samantha Marrs . Gary Stager . Robert Cloud . Adrian Coulson . Melissa A. Weber . Merle Kreibich . Patrick Ludwig . Darryl Dogan . Bonnie Wacker . Mike Peak . Howard Banchik . Perry & Eileen Dworkin . Donna Chinn . Stephan Fredrich . Gina Kronstadt . Gou Noborio . Ron Anderson . Susan Gordon . Mary Hafeli . Ernest Dickerson & Rose Geddes . Debra Peterson . Stacy & Denton Fisch . Hidenori Ueki . Rika Davis . Rose Ellen & David Glickman . Misato Shinohara . Peter Gontha . Jon Charles . Georgina . Sheree Johnson . Mark Olsen . Sharon Lapid . Dr. Stephan Dumas . USA for Africa . Tootie Heath . Pearl & Howard Davis . Barbara Glickman . Barbara Jansen . Chini Taylor-Johnson . Victoria Hornstein . Melissa Hager . Joe Soldo . Michael Flöer


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Founded in 2001, the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra is a non-profit organization dedicated to perpetuating the uniquely American genre of symphonic jazz through its commissioning program, and inspiring the next generations of listeners through its “Music in the Schools” program, and Community Outreach Program.   Learn More