RDJ Memorial Foundation Class of 2013

co2012b1World renowned bassist Nedra Wheeler lead a tight ensemble of teens that were recipients of the 2nd Annual Roderick D. Jones Memorial Scholarship. The Roderick D. Jones Memorial Scholarship Awards were given to a select group of young jazz artist who submitted outstanding essays in regards to their love for jazz while representing excellence in education as well as a passion to perform the music of “JAZZ.”

The 2013 Teen Jazz Ensemble and 2nd Annual Recipients of the Roderick D. Jones Memorial Scholarship are Alice Shin-vocals, Michael Plascencia-guitar, William Cabason-keyboards, Christopher Astoquillca-sax, and Makela Session-drums. Their wonderful set list consisted of soul and straight ahead jazz classics on the tunes “Move on Up” by Curtis Mayfield, “The Kicker,” “Song For My Father” by Horace Silver, “Cheek to Cheek,” “Bright Sides Life,” “and closed their set with “You Gotta Have Freedom” by Pharoah Sanders. This tune was appropriate in time for the 50th Anniversary March on Washington and the captivating “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on August 28,1963. Roderick D. Jones “R.J.” was instrumental in bringing the vision of a world class jazz festival to the City of Gardena; a city that he loved and in which he lived and served his entire life. “R.J.” worked tirelessly as a devoted coach and mentor to the youth in his community and it is his name and memory that the 2013 Jazz Festival Committee is proud to award scholarships to this year’s recipients.

RDJ Memorial Scholarship Winners

  • Alice Shin (Vocals) was originally from South Korea, being of Korean descent; moved here at the age of 3. As her mother grew her reputation as an opera singer in L.A., Alice began to her develop love and sense for music. Alice has won many awards in singing competitions locally to nationally for as long as she could remember. Even though she was introduced to jazz in her second year of high school, Alice cannot conceal her greed to learn more about the genre and it’s complex factors. She aspires to continue learning music because singing is her precious treasure.  
  • Mekala Session (Drums) was born and raised in Los Angeles California and began playing the drums at the age of one. His first teacher and mentor was Billy Higgens, with whom he took lessons from at the World Stage every Monday for 2 years. He’s played with the LAUSD All-City Big Band, The Pan-Afrikan People’s Arkestra, as well with his father, local saxophonist Michael Session. He attended Grand Arts High School and is currently enrolled in California Institute for the Arts. One of his favorite pass-times is writing. What a nerd.
  • Michael Placencia (Guitar) performed with Terrell Stafford, Patti Austin and my friends who I’ve met at school and other jazz programs that I did. Some of the Venues I have performed at are the Hollywood Bowl, The Central Ave jazz fest, the Dunbar Hotel, The Del Monte Speakeasy, UClA Schoneberg hall, The Roxy, The House of blues, The Gardena Jazz fest. Magianos restuarant, and The Game sports bar.
  • Christopher Astoquilla (Sax, Flute and Clarinet) has had the good fortunate to play with artists such Marcus Belgrave (Ray Charles Big Band), James Carter, Patty Austin, Brian Mcknight, Barbara Morrison, Charles Owens, Cornelius C. Mims and Louie Cruz Beltran among others. He has been featured with The Dry Martini Big Band, Thelonious Monk Institute All-City Jazz Big Band, JazzAmerica Big Band and has played under the direction of Dr. J.B. Dyas, AnthonyWhite, Richard Simon, Joe Vento, David Benoit (AAYO), and Charles Dickerson (ICYOLA).
  • William Cabison (Keyboards) cannot possibly summarize himself in such a short paragraph. He has many objectives—some grandiose, others fanciful—that he would like to fulfill in his lifetime. He is a young, eclectic, insightful musician who specializes in classical/jazz piano and music composition. Based in Los Angeles, where a diverse music community is flourishing, William is unsure which avenue his musical studies at UCLA will take him. Nonetheless, he aspires to perform at world-class venues, become a music professor, and/or compose music. williamcabison.com