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Teacher created fake jazz festival ‘awards’

SANTA FE – A story the Journal published in early May about the New Mexico School for the Arts jazz combo’s winning a top award at the New York City Jazz Festival has proven to be inaccurate.

The Journal North discovered that the festival is not competitive, and that the “First Place” award and three “Outstanding Soloist” honors for combo members that the school publicized were created by the School for the Arts’ own jazz studies instructor.

An NMSA spokesperson said the school was not aware that the awards were not genuine festival prizes until this week when informed by a Journal North reporter.

The school had sent out a news release about the reported first place win in New York and posted pictures of a first place plaque on social media.

At the April festival, the NMSA jazz combo performed for a panel of professional musicians, who provided comments and critiques. In an email Wednesday, teacher Orlando Madrid told the Journal he made the awards for the students based on the panel’s comments.

“I understand it was not an ‘official’ competition, so I took it upon myself to make certificates based off the judges input which I thought would help us with lots of press/fundraising efforts to cover the cost of the trip,” Madrid said.

A spokesperson from Manhattan Concert Productions, the organization that puts on the jazz festival, confirmed that it does not distribute awards of any kind, describing the festival as an educational event for students.

NMSA spokesman Sean Johnson said in a statement that the school learned that the awards weren’t genuine from the Journal and that an investigation is underway.

The jazz band has been selected by NMSA to perform at the Chengdu International Sister Cities Youth Music Festival in China in July. City government contacted the school after it was given the offer to send a local ensemble to the festival, Mayor Alan Webber said earlier this week.

Johnson said the incident does not change the school’s plans to raise funds for the trip or to send the student musicians to China. “We are proud of the accomplishments of our students and are thankful for the opportunities they have had to learn and grow,” Johnson wrote.