Two NJYS ensembles were awarded the Mingus Spirit Award, Best Trombone Section, and three Outstanding Soloist awards.

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ, February 19, 2020 /Neptune100/ — The New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS) announced today that the NJYS Jazz Orchestra and Charles Mingus Combo received top prizes at the 12th Annual Charles Mingus Festival & High School Competition. The two ensembles were awarded the Mingus Spirit Award, Best Trombone Section, and three Outstanding Soloist awards: Ben Collins-Siegel, piano; Ryoma Takenaga, bass; and Koleby Royston, drums, who were asked to sit in with the Mingus Big Band at the Jazz Standard. The festival and competition took place February 14-17 at The New School of Jazz and Jazz Standard in New York City.

Said Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Helen H. Cha-Pyo, “It was thrilling to hear the NJYS Jazz Orchestra perform on the same stage as some of the best high school groups across the country. It is simply remarkable what our young musicians have accomplished under the direction of Julius Tolentino and the NJYS jazz faculty in just less than two years!”

“Our students were inspired by Mingus’ music, the Mingus Band, and some of the best high school jazz musicians in the country. They left it all on stage in their performances and truly played with the spirit of Charles Mingus. We couldn’t be prouder of their efforts!” said Director of Jazz Julius Tolentino.

Organized and presented by Dr. Keller Coker, The New School of Jazz, Sue Mingus, and Let My Children Hear Music/The Charles Mingus Institute, the event displayed dozens of talented high school students from across the United States. This year’s finalists, in categories for both big band and combos, traveled to New York City from California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Washington to participate in workshops, lectures, films, and jam sessions as well as the Mingus Competition: a full day of concert performances in the New School’s Tishman Auditorium.

“Congratulations to everyone at the NJYS Jazz program, not only our Artistic Director Helen Cha-Pyo and Program Director Julius Tolentino, but definitely all of our young musician participants who gave it their very best at this world-renowned jazz competition,” said Peter H. Gistelinck, Executive Director at the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts.

For more information about the New Jersey Youth Symphony jazz program, visit

The New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS), founded in 1979, is a tiered orchestral program offering ensemble education for students in grades 3-12 across New Jersey. NJYS has grown from one orchestra of 65 students to over 500 students in 15 different orchestras and ensembles, including the internationally recognized Youth Symphony. NJYS ensembles have performed in venues including the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Carnegie Hall, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. NJYS has received numerous prestigious awards for its adventurous programming from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and has had six European tours, including participation in the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Festival and Competition (Vienna), winning First Prizes in July 2014 and 2017.

Now in its 41st season, NJYS continues to achieve musical excellence through intensive instruction and high-level performance. Under the guidance of a talented artistic team of conductors, coaches, and teaching artists, students are immersed in challenging repertoire, learning the art of ensemble playing, and exploring their potential in a supportive and inclusive environment. NJYS remains committed to programming works by diverse composers and will feature 20th century African-American and women composers such as Duke Ellington, George Walker, Yvonne Desportes, Emma Lou Diemer, Julia Perry, and Florence Price this season. Youth Symphony embarks on a concert tour to Italy in the summer of 2020 that includes a world premiere by emerging composer and Jersey City resident Aferdian Stephens.

The New Jersey Youth Symphony is a program of the Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts. Wharton is New Jersey’s largest non-profit performing arts education organization serving over 1,500 students of all ages and abilities through a range of classes and ensembles. In addition to the New Jersey Youth Symphony, programs include the Paterson Music Project, an El Sistema-inspired program that uses music as a vehicle for social change by empowering and inspiring children through the community experience of ensemble learning and playing in its hometown of Paterson. Beginning with early childhood music classes for toddlers, the Performing Arts School offers 500 private lessons and group classes each week, ensuring there is something for everyone of all ages and abilities.