cuestaCuesta College’s jazz combo Sperdak has been named the best community college small jazz combo in the nation by DownBeat, an American magazine devoted to the jazz and blues culture. The honor is a part of the publication’s 38th Annual Student Music Awards.

“I’m really happy for my students, this is a wonderful affirmation for them,” said Ron McCarly, director of jazz studies at Cuesta College. “Our jazz program has been strong for many years, but receiving this honor validates our groups and my students, especially when being compared to large colleges from around the country. I like seeing the students realize how great they are.”
The members of Sperdak responsible for the award are brothers Josh and Sean Collins, and Keegan Harshman. The trio, who also study under the Central Coast Jazz Institute, submitted multiple recordings to DownBeat, including two original compositions.

“I’ve been playing jazz since the fifth grade, and growing up I was always aware of Downbeat Magazine and how big it is,” said Harshman, Sperdak’s bass player. “You see the new and upcoming famous musicians on the cover all the time, and for me it’s just so cool being able to see Cuesta College’s name get recognized and being able to represent the school.”

In addition to the Cuesta Jazz Ensemble and the Evening Jazz Ensemble, the Cuesta Jazz Studies Department fields various small jazz combo groups each semester of varying instrumentation and ability levels. Sperdak will perform in multiple upcoming jazz combo performances, including a May 9 Jazz Ensembles Concert on the college’s Cultural and Performing Arts Center (CPAC) Main Stage at 8:00 p.m., and a Cuesta Combos concert on May 19 on the CPAC Main Stage at 7:30 p.m. For more information on the college’s Performing Arts Department, click here.

DownBeat was established in 1934 and is known for publishing the results of annual surveys of both its readers and critics in a variety of categories. For a full list of this year’s student award winners, click here.