George Duke Commissioning Prize Entry Form & Information

To honor the legacy of the trailblazing musician, former Symphonic Jazz Orchestra (SJO) Co-Music Director and ASCAP board member, George Duke, the SJO has opened the George Duke Commissioning Prize competition to all direct ASCAP composer members, with a submission deadline of July 17th. The Music Advisory Board of the SJO will select the winning composer, who will be commissioned to write a new orchestral score for the SJO blending jazz & classical music – and more. The newly commissioned work will be premiered by the 67-piece SJO in 2016/17.

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.

Contest Guidelines

Entry Form

Have a Question? Contact Us

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Tim Samut Memorial Information

Tim's Celebration of Life: Saturday, May 2, 2015, 11:00AM – 1:00PM

St. Monica Catholic Church* Grand Pavilion

725 California Avenue

Santa Monica, CA  90403

*Please note – this is a Celebration of Life, not a religious service.

To contribute to the SJO Tim Samut Memorial Fund, click here.

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SJO Happenings...

April is

National Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM)


The Smithsonian National Museum of American History created this month-long celebration of jazz in 2002. It was inspired by the success of Black History Month.   As any musician or fan will tell you, jazz cannot be taught through textbooks alone. It is a uniquely American genre of music, has evolved and influenced many other styles and types of music internationally. Understanding that learning about jazz and its history requires active listening & engagement, reading, and discussion. So as part of jazz appreciation month the SJO will feature legendary jazz musician & performers throughout the month of April.

Friday April 24 Features International Jazz Day on April 30th:

International Jazz Day was created in 2011 and has grown greatly in size and popularity since then. It is a historic series of jazz education workshops and performance programs which are presented free and open to the public. This year’s designated Global Host City is Paris, France. Concerts workshops, jam sessions, and educational programs have been planned to take place throughout the day in each all of Paris’s 20 arrondissements. International Jazz Day is co-chaired  by Herbie Hancock, Chairperson of the Thelonious Monk Institute and Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General.

Go to to watch concert live streaming on April 30. Next week SJO through it’s Facebook page will highlight several major musicians performing for this global celebration.

Wednesday April 22 Features Duke Ellington:



More Ellington tidbits:

*His birth-name was Edward Kennedy Ellington, but when he was young and in school he gained his nickname, "Duke," after a friend recommended that he should have some sort of ‘title’ for his musical talent.

*His parents were both pianists and encouraged their son to learn music and play the piano - he was taught by the jazz pianist Harvey Brooks 

* His first major gig was at the Cotton Club in Harlem.

* In 1959 Duke Ellington was awarded the Spingarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) foroutstanding and unique musical achievements”. .

* To view Medal of Freedom ceremony:

Friday April 17 Features a Challenge:



As part of our celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month- we offer you a challenge... sharing your love of jazz with others!

*Take a friend to a club offering live performances or check out LACMA’s FREE concert series on Friday nights beginning April 24th with “Celebrating Cannonball Adderley”

*Check-out -click on the “Explore- Education, Exhibits & Collections“ tab to explore jazz history and music with friends and kids in your life.



Wednesday April 15 Features Geri Allen, Esperanza Spalding, & Terri Lyne Carrington:


Each artist is hugely talented and all have received major accolades for their compositions and individual and/or group performances. When they join forces it is a truly amazing ensemble.

Geri Allen, Esperanza Spalding, and Terri Lyne Carrington clip from Jazz in Marciac from 2014, “Unconditional Love

Monday April 13 Feature Herbie Hancock:


Herbie is the Chairman of the Thelonious Monk Institute, which has taken the lead role in coordinating and planning International Jazz Day. Created in 2011, International Jazz Day “to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe”. 

Check-out a short video about the making of River: The Joni Letters:

Friday April 10 Marcus Miller Feature Performance:



Dunlop Sessions: Marcus Miller


Wednesday April 8 George Duke Answers:

Q: What well-known contemporary artists have featured or “sampled” some of George’s work?

A:  Daft Punk for their hit "Digital Love"; "Guilty",  electronica music artist Mylo in his song "Guilty of Love" on Destroy Rock & Roll. "For Love", by underground hip hop artist MF Doom on his track "I Hear Voices"; "Someday", and by hip hop artist/producer Kanye West for Common in "Break My Heart" on his "Finding Forever" album.

Daft Punk:

Kanye West and Common:


Q: How many Frank Zappa-composed songs did George cover?

A: Duke was a longtime member of Zappa’s band and also covered two Zappa-composed songs on his 1975 album, The Aura Will Prevail, "Uncle Remus" (co-written with Duke) and "Echidna's Arf" - that he had played on while a member of The Mothers on Zappa's albums.


Monday April 6: Today’s Feature Jazz Legend- Ella Fitzgerald:



Ella Fitzgerald’s legacy is alive and well today through the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation. The SJO is proud to be a grant recipient of their Foundation, which supports our expanding music education program at Lincoln Elementary in Long Beach, CA.




SJO’s Feature School of the Month

La Ballona Elementary School

Culver City, CA 

Third Grade Instrument Workshop Series 


Brass Instruments

At La Ballona 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”.

     Third Grade Instrument Workshop Series Featuring Brass

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. Every month beginning in February, a different family of instrument is featured at each monthly workshop. In California, 3rd grade is when students get the opportunity to participate in their school’s band program, if one exists. 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.

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


For the brass workshop, a quintet played a mini-concert demonstrating the various sounds of the trumpet, French horn, tuba, and trombone. Musicians are Jason Foltz on trumpet, left, Paul Klintworth on French horn, Blake Cooper on tuba, Phil Keen on trombone, and Aaron Smith on trumpet.

Musicians demonstrated the extreme sounds between the high sounds of a small bugle to the low qualities of the large tuba. They also compared the length of tubing required for the trumpet and tuba by asking the students to hold rope cut at the trumpet’s tubing length 4’ 10 “, and the tuba’s tubing length of 18’. They pointed out “that’s a lot of air to push through the tuba”!


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. Many of the students found it hard to blow a lot of air into the small opening of the mouth pieces! Classmates looked on and “encouraged” their friends to get it right!


Musicians show students the correct way to blow air into the mouth piece and how to correctly hold each instrument. Not only are the students happy and proud to make a sound, but the musicians are as well.  It’s all in the technique and some students are naturals!

About La Ballona Elementary School

        La Ballona is one of five CCUSD elementary schools. Its current enrollment is approximately 570 students. Since 2009, the school has launched the Dual Language Program in Spanish and has added a new grade level each year until the program is fully implemented, Kindergarten through 5th grade. In this program, students learn the core District curriculum in the target language of Spanish as well as English. Currently there are twelve classrooms that provide the dual language program: Kindergarten-5th grades. This program is ethnically diverse and approximately 50% of the students come from homes in which the primary language is Spanish.

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