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NMSA fires teacher who made fake jazz awards

SANTA FE — The New Mexico School for the Arts has let go a music teacher who admitted to making fake awards for his students that the school had publicized as genuine prizes from the New York City Jazz Festival.

NMSA spokesperson Sean Johnson confirmed that jazz studies teacher Orlando Madrid, who started working at the school last year, had been terminated with cause last week.

Attempts to reach Madrid on Monday were unsuccessful.

In early May, the school issued a news release that the NMSA jazz combo had won a “First Place” award and three “Outstanding Soloist” honors at the New York City Jazz Festival in April. NMSA posted pictures of a first place plaque on social media. The Journal published a story on the awards soon afterward.

The Journal North, while preparing what was to be a follow-up feature story on the jazz combo, discovered that the New York festival is not competitive and it does not issue “best of” awards.

Madrid confirmed in an email to the Journal that he had created the awards on his own based on critiques from professional musicians at the festival. A festival spokesperson last week described the festival as an educational event. A panel of jazz experts does provide feedback to young musicians who participate, but no awards are issued.

“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 in last week’s email.

Now, other staff members will accompany the jazz combo to the Chengdu International Sister Cities Youth Music Festival in China this July, Johnson said Monday. The founders of the school’s jazz studies program, local musicians Bert Dalton and John Trentacosta, will help in the search process for a new instructor.

The 2018-2019 school year was the first time the jazz studies program was held as a class and had a full-time teacher. Prior to that, it was an extracurricular activity.

NMSA is a competitive-entry school open to students from around the state now housedin a former parochial school in downtown Santa Fe. It is constructing a new $30 million school complex, with dormitories, in a former commercial center next to the Santa Fe Railyard that was purchased by the school’s foundation.

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