UK Mega-Sax, Jazz Students Score 8 Awards at Elmhurst Festival

The University of Kentucky Mega-Sax Quartet, under the direction of Miles Osland, took home Outstanding Combo Award at the 54th annual Elmhurst College Jazz Festival held virtually Feb. 26-28. In addition, Wildcats from both the quartet and UK Jazz Ensemble scored seven Outstanding Soloist Awards.

By Whitney Hale

UK Mega-Sax Quartet - The Elmhurst Jazz Festival Set from UK Fine Arts on Vimeo.

Watch UK Mega-Sax Quartet's Outstanding Combo Award-winning performance at Elmhurst above.

UK Jazz Ensemble - The Elmhurst Jazz Festival Set from UK Fine Arts on Vimeo.

The Mega-Sax quartets and quintets at the UK School of Music perform with and without a rhythm section under the direction of Osland, director of Jazz Studies and professor of saxophone. The groups’ acclaim continues to grow through various live performances and recordings.

At the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival, judges evaluated UK Mega-Sax Quartet’s performance from videos recorded last fall as part of the Classroom Concert Series with the technical assistance of Matt Gibson, director of operations at Singletary Center for the Arts, and audio engineer Aaron Hynds, a musician, composer and lecturer at UK School of Music.  

For the second year in a row, the Mega-Sax Quartet received the Outstanding Combo Award and all four members received Outstanding Soloist Awards. This year’s quartet includes: music education senior Jacob O’Donnell, of Lexington, on alto saxophone; music performance freshman Dalton Stanland, of Lexington, on alto saxophone; graduate student Kirby Davis, of Greenville, Kentucky, on tenor saxophone; and graduate student Adam O’Neal, of Huntington, West Virginia, on baritone saxophone.

UK Jazz Ensemble also submitted a video from the fall’s Classroom Concert Series. A normally active group on the road, the ensemble has toured the Midwest and South under the direction of Osland with performances in Chicago, Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Louisville, Notre Dame University, Tennessee and Georgia, as well as invitational performances at the International Association of Jazz Educators Conference and the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic. The UK Jazz Ensemble has twice been awarded the Outstanding Jazz Ensemble certificate at the annual Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz Festival and multiple times at the Elmhurst Jazz Festival.

This year, three soloists from the UK Jazz Ensemble were recognized at Elmhurst. Davis and O’Donnell were presented with their second Outstanding Soloist Awards alongside fellow Wildcat David Vest, a music performance senior form Lexington.

For the 2021 festival, Elmhurst received critiques on the college band performances from a distinguished panel of adjudicators that included drummer and composer Dennis Mackrel, saxophonist Donny McCaslin and trumpeter Terell Stafford.

The nation’s best college and university jazz bands perform annually each February in the Elmhurst Jazz Festival. The festival of performances and educational opportunities, which runs three days, gives college musicians the opportunity to play in front of some of the greatest names in professional jazz, who offer critiques and present a variety of awards. This year, UK’s competition included such schools as University of North Texas, Western Michigan University, Elmhurst College, Purdue University, Columbia College Chicago and Whitworth University.

To watch UK Jazz Ensemble’s spring concert presented as part of the Classroom Concert Series, visit the College of Fine Arts Vimeo at: https://vimeo.com/523861858/fe8b688363.


Story originally appeared in UK Now on March 26, 2021.