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 Sunday, 29 November 2015
Dakota Combo Selected for Charles Mingus High School Competition PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Friday, 07 January 2011

“They have great passion and enthusiasm for playing jazz and especially have developed a great love for playing the music of Charles Mingus.” – Paul Babcock, President/COO, MacPhail Center for Music 

The Dakota ComboŠAndrea Canter

The Dakota Combo, the all-star ensemble of high school jazz musicians directed by Adam Linz, will be one of the 12 finalists in the upcoming Charles Mingus High School Competition and Festival, to be held at the Manhattan School of Music February 19-20. The Combo is one of only two bands outside of the East Coast to participate in this year’s competition. A program of the MacPhail Center for Music with support from the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education (DFJE), the Dakota Combo is now in its fifth year, offering serious jazz students in grades 9-12 the opportunity to learn, rehearse and perform throughout the school year. Selected through open auditions each September, Combo musicians have gone on to such prestigious music programs as the Brubeck Institute, New England Conservatory of Music, New School, Juilliard School and more. 

Adam LinzŠAndrea Canter
The Dakota Combo for 2010-2011 has focused on the works of Charles Mingus since the first rehearsal in September, in conjunction with a National Endowment for the Arts grant awarded to MacPhail. The grant supports the presentation of Mingus’s music in four of MacPhail’s “Jazz Thursdays” concerts this season. The Combo will appear as guest artists on the March 24th concert, and will be the featured performers on the May 12th concert. The Combo also performed the works of Carei Thomas at MacPhail in October, performed mostly Mingus and original works at the Dakota Jazz Club in early December with guest artist Johnathan Blake, will perform at fundraisers for the DFJE and MacPhail this spring, will be the featured Twin Cities Jazz Societey Young Artist ensemble at the Artists Quarter on May 5th, and will appear on the Youth Stage of the 2011 Twin Cities Jazz Festival in June. 

Let My Children Hear Music/The Charles Mingus Institute and Manhattan School of Music (MSM) announced an exciting lineup for the Charles Mingus High School Competition and Festival weekend, including events produced by each organization. The Mingus Big Band will play throughout the weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights) at Jazz Standard, with selected soloists from the competition sitting in on Sunday night (February 20th).  On Saturday evening (February 19th), a public concert of Mingus gospel music, featuring the Mingus Orchestra conducted by Gunther Schuller, will be held at the landmark St. Bartholomew’s (St. Bart’s) Church on Park Avenue and 50th Street, which will be recorded for broadcast by NPR. A full day of clinics and workshops will be held at the Manhattan School of Music throughout the day on February 19th, followed by a student Mingus jam. Prominent educators and musicians will participate in the clinics and adjudicate the Competition on February 20th, also at MSM, featuring the top 12 big bands and combos selected from a national applicant pool. 

Adam Linz, Combo director and a staunch advocate for the music of Charles Mingus, couldn't be happier. “The Mingus High School Competition is one of the most high profile jazz gatherings in the world. Not only is the Dakota Combo working on the music of Mingus this year because of our NEA Grant at MacPhail, but even if they weren't, I think we still would have applied. The music of Mingus somehow taps into the youth of America.  I think it is the emphasis on energy and the band concept that draw young people to his music. It requires that you step up and be heard and not hide in a section. It also promotes individuality among the people that tackle it. The meek need not apply. So we are very excited to go to NYC and meet other young people from around the country that share our love for this man and his music! We are also excited to show everyone our commitment to Mingus in the lives of young people.” 

 Notes MacPhail President/Chief Operating Officer Paul Babcock, “This is a terrific opportunity for the students in the Dakota Combo. They have great passion and enthusiasm for playing jazz and especially have developed a great love for playing the music of Charles Mingus. It’s an honor have the Dakota Combo perform at the Mingus competition and be selected among the excellent high school jazz groups from across the country.” DFJE President Tom Trow adds, “The Dakota Combo has been a great annual partnership between MacPhail and the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education. It's a testimony to Adam Linz's dedicated leadership and commitment to the students that we now have this national recognition of the quality of the program, and the competition in New York will be an amazing opportunity for these talented young musicians.”

Dakota Combo playing at MacPhailŠAndrea Canter

The musicians of the 2010-2011 Dakota Combo include:

  • DeCarlo Jackson, trumpet (grade 10, St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists)
  • Danny Hupp, saxophones (grade 12, Minneapolis Southwest High School)
  • Brad Allen, saxophones (grade 12, Minnetonka High School)
  • John Cushing, trombone (grade 12, Minnetonka High School)
  • Quentin Tschofen, piano (grade 12, Lighthouse Program/Spring Lake Park)
  • Caitlin Kelliher, bass (grade 12, Minneapolis Southwest High School)
  • Jordan Jenkins, bass (grade 12, Apple Valley High School)
  • Emerson Hunton, drums (grade 11, Minneapolis South High School)

And they are excited about the competition! "I'm absolutely thrilled,” said saxophonist Danny Hupp. “To be thrown into an environment where everyone has the same passion as you is exciting, but also somewhat terrifying. I honestly cannot wait."  Adds pianist Quentin Tschofen, “I'm really looking forward to the competition and workshops. What's particularly exciting is the opportunity to play jazz in New York among a lot of people who really love the art form…And now we need to rehearse!” 

For more about the musicians of the Dakota Combo, visit (“Meet the Dakota Combo”). More about the Combo and DFJE at More about MacPhail at For information about the Mingus Institute and education programs, including the competition, visit

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