Saturday, May 12, 2012

UNO Jazz Studies Student Wins ASCAP Foundation Louis Armstrong Scholarship

A graduate student in the University of New Orleans' famed jazz studies program has won the University's premier jazz studies scholarship.

Kristofer "Kris" Justin Tokarski learned Thursday that he had been selected to receive the 2012-2013 ASCAP Foundation Louis Armstrong Scholarship at UNO. The award is made annually to a UNO jazz studies graduate student who shows talent in and dedication to both composing and performing, shows leadership qualities, and is either a member of The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers or does not have formal representation.

ASCAP is a membership association of more than 435,000 U.S. composers, songwriters, lyricists, and music publishers, according to the organization's website. The performing rights organization licenses and collects royalties for performance of its members' work.

"I am truly honored and it is a great feeling to be recognized for my work, especially by my teachers and the Louis Armstrong Foundation," said Tokarski when he received notice of the award. "I am looking forward to composing and arranging some material to perform as a part of this promotion, and of course am very excited to go to New York to attend the awards ceremony.  I will do my best to represent UNO well!"

Tokarski, 23, was raised outside New York City and studied at the Garden State Academy of Music in Creskill, N.J. and the Berklee College of Music in Boston before arriving at UNO to pursue his master's degree in music.

His musical interests began with piano lessons at age give. Growing up in a Hungarian-American household, he was raised on classical and Hungarian folk music. He pursued classical music in high school before switching his studies to jazz. Before heading to college, he had already been named the youngest performing member of the Dixieland Jazz Society of the Low Country in Hilton Head, S.C.

At Berklee, Tokarski studied with Ray Santisi, Frank Carlberg, Laszlo Gardony and Dave Santoro. He also began making trips to NYC to study with bebop master Barry Harris. He became interested in composing and arranging while playing with Alex Trampas 'Pocket Jazz Orchestra.'

Today, Tokarski studies jazz composition at UNO with saxophonist and composer Ed Petersen, while keeping a busy playing and teaching schedule.

The scholarship brings the UNO graduate student a $3,000 cash award divided into two semester payouts. As the University's Louis Armstrong Scholar, Tokarski will give at least one performance featuring original works and crediting ASCAP in his promotion. UNO jazz studies assistant professor Brian Seeger will help him to prepare.

Tokarski will fly, all expenses paid, on December 12 to New York City to attend the ASCAP Foundation’s annual awards ceremony at Jazz at Lincoln Center.