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In Memory of a Mentor: Charles W. Danish

Charles W. Danish Scholarship for Musical Excellence

February 25, 2016 - Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, with support from Medix and a long list of individual donors, awarded 5 students with The Charles W. Danish Scholarship for Musical Excellence.The scholarship provides mentoring and private music lessons for students that show exceptional talent, promise, and dedication in their craft.

In memory of this remarkable individual who helped a young Orbert Davis, the award provides one year of mentoring and private music lessons for Jazz Alive students that show exceptional talent, promise, and dedication to their craft. After an internal nomination, application, and audition process, students awarded are:

Award Winners

Laura Andrade

7th grade pianist at Lionel Hampton Fine & Performing Arts School in Chicago, Illinois

Laura is a self-taught pianist who has been playing piano for the last four years. This is her first year in Lionel Hampton’s concert band and jazz band and this will be her first experience with private piano instruction. “The first time I ever played the piano, I was about 8 years old. It was hard for me to read notes at first but I kept practicing and practicing and got better. Two of my favorite composers are Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig von Beethoven. My favorite Beethoven composition is “Moonlight Sonata.” It is beautiful!” Laura will be studying with Leandro Lopez Varady, the pianist for the CJP orchestra.


Marshun McGee

8th grade bass player at Brooks Middle School in Harvey, Illinois

Marshun has been participating in the Brooks Middle School concert band for the last five years and has been a member of the school’s jazz band, lead by Dr. Roosevelt Griffin, for three years. He has attended CJP’s Summer Jazz Academy camp for the last three years. He plays both electric and double (stand up) bass in his ensembles, but also is learning to play the piano. “I plan to become further educated in music so I can live life happily and to educate the young minds of our future to continue music in the future.” Marshun will be studying with Stewart Miller, lead double bass player for the CJP orchestra.


Jayda Pedraza

7th grade violin player at Lionel Hampton Fine & Performing Arts School in Chicago, Illinois

Jayda has been a violin student in CJP’s StringsAlive program at Lionel Hampton School, under the direction of Phyllis McKenny-Sanders, for the last year and a half. In addition to playing the violin, she is also learning to play the piano, sings in her school’s choirs, and writes music. Last year was her first year at CJP’s Summer Jazz Academy. “I want to continue in my music career especially on the violin. I will work hard and dedicate my life to this violin, and I won’t let anything stop me from doing that.” Jayda will continue her studies in private lessons with Phyllis McKenny-Sanders, a long-time Jazz Alive and Strings Alive teaching artist and member of the CJP orchestra.


LaKaela Prince

7th grade cello and bass player at Lionel Hampton Fine & Performing Arts School in Chicago, Illinois

LaKaela is a multi-talented student, playing violin, cello, and bass in Lionel Hampton’s concert band, jazz band and string ensemble. Before she was nominated, she never knew that private lessons were ever an option. “I’ve been trying and trying to figuring out some ways where I can make my skills go “off the charts.” Now I guess I found a way for that to happen. I always wished that I could someday be able to perform in front of a crowd. The crowd would just cheer for me. Now I just might be able to see what that feels like.” LaKaela will be studying both cello and bass with John Sutton, a member of the CJP orchestra and Jazz Alive teaching artist.


Jada Scott

7th grade violin player at Orland Junior High School in Orland Park, Illinois

Jada began playing violin in her school’s orchestra four years ago. She says she was inspired to play by listening to the YouTube video Vanessa Mae Devil’s Trill. “Long story short, my parents bought me a violin and we have been inseparable ever since.” Jada has been attending CJP’s Summer Jazz Academy for the last five years. “I grew more personally and musically during the two weeks of Jazz Camp than I did during my four years in school orchestra.” Jada will be studying with Phyllis McKenny-Sanders.


Join us in wishing a CONGRATULATIONS to these young talents! To support these and future Danish scholars donate to the fund Thank you!

For More information about The Charles W. Danish Scholarship for Musical Excellence. Download press release.