Atascadero High School’s jazz band won top honors at the 30th annual Central Coast Jazz Festival held March 8-9 at Cuesta College.

“It’s rare that one of our local bands wins the whole thing,” said Ron McCarley, a Cuesta jazz instructor who organized the event that attracted 1,000 performers, support personnel and jazz fans.

In addition, Duncan Green of Atascadero High was named the festival’s top soloist, which includes a $1,000 scholarship. Atascadero musicians were directed by Nate Conrad.

Four middle schools and 18 high schools from Fresno to San Diego participated. Atascadero won the advanced category, finishing ahead of Santa Barbara’s Dos Pueblos High School A band.

Hanford High’s A band, led by Lisa Butts, was top finisher in the intermediate category. Dos Pueblos’s B band, directed by Les Rose, was second. Santa Maria and Pioneer Valley high schools finished sixth and seventh respectively.

In the novice category, Kerman High of Fresno, directed by Steve Nance, was first. Torrance High, led by Carlos Anwandter, was second. Paso Robles High’s big band, led by director Sonny Galvin, was fourth, and San Luis Obispo High, which was directed by Sharon Jeskey, was fifth.

San Diego’s St. Augustine High School, led by Brandon Jogow, won the high school jazz combo competition.

Liberty Middle School from Lemoore, directed by Chris Morshead, was judged best middle school. Hanford’s Woodrow Wilson, led by director Bill Wilkensen, was runner-up.

McCarley said that the festival, which was launched by Warren Balfour, who created the jazz studies program at Cuesta, allows young players to prepare for a competition, perform on stage and receive feedback from a panel of highly regarded jazz educators.

It also allows organizers to bring recording artists to Cuesta’s Cultural and Performing Arts Center. This year’s featured group was the jazz quintet Kneebody, described by the New York Times as “a resolutely un-pindownable band.” The group, playing without its horn player, conducted an afternoon workshop for students followed by an evening concert March 9.

Kneebody keyboardist Adam Benjamin performed with several Cuesta jazz combos during an evening concert March 8, including “The Day After Thanksgiving” that was penned by Cuesta student Sean Collins for his quintet Mano Fuerte.

“I got to perform a tune I wrote with my favorite musician,” Collins said after the concert. “How cool is that?”

To learn more about the festival and results, visit

Jay Thompson | (805) 546-3100, ext. 2636 | Email: | Posted March 11, 2013