Monterey Jazz Festival Announces 2021 Next Generation Jazz Orchestra Members

Mike Lawson • News • May 17, 2021

Monterey Jazz Festival is proud to announce the 2021 members of its Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, the Festival’s internationally-renowned high school all-star big band, featuring the best high school jazz musicians in the country.

More details from Monterey Jazz Festival (

Monterey Jazz Festival Artistic Director Tim Jackson is extremely pleased to see such a highly-talented, representative group of students this year. “I am really excited about our 2021 Next Generation Jazz Orchestra,” says Jackson. “Our amazing Band Director, Gerald Clayton, in partnership with a dedicated group of adjudicators, has chosen a diverse group of students from around the country that reflect the values of the artists that you hear on the stages of the Monterey Jazz Festival. I look forward to hearing them live at this year’s Festival!”

Here are a few glimpses into the stories behind these talented young musicians:

Chase Bautista, bass trombone, is from San Jose, California. and grew up with the dream of performing in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra. “My father was a member of the NGJO in 1988, where the guests were J.J. Johnson and Clark Terry, and I have heard him reminisce about the community he gained and the experience of playing in front of a crowd.”

Others, like Noa Zebley, baritone saxophone from Concord, California, were inspired by their peers to audition. “In 2019, I heard the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra play on the Jimmy Lyons Stage, and I was in awe,” says Zebley. “Friends of mine were in the band and hearing them play together and seeing them at the Monterey Jazz Festival was so inspiring. All I wanted after hearing them was to be on that stage with like-minded people sharing music at a high level.”

Everyone is eager to get back out and have the opportunity to perform live. Vocalist Ellah Brown from Rutherford, New Jersey, says: “The NGJO offers an opportunity to come together and create music after a difficult year for artists. I am excited to hear all the new ideas musicians have been shedding, and to connect with artists from all around the world.”

These twenty students represent the nation’s most talented high school musicians from eleven states and the District of Columbia, and were selected through robust online auditions, judged by professional jazz artists and educators.


Gerald Clayton, Director


  • Brandon Suarez, alto saxophone / Gulliver Preparatory, Miami, Fla.
  • Kevin Brewster, alto saxophone / East Kentwood High School, Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Nick Caldwell, tenor saxophone / San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, San Diego, Calif.
  • Zeb J-A, tenor saxophone / Durham Academy, Durham, N.C.
  • Noa Zebley, baritone saxophone / Northgate High School, Concord, Calif.


  • Andre Perlman, New World School of the Arts, Miami, Fla.
  • Andrew Zhang, Lakeside School, Sammamish, Wash.
  • Bruno Tzinas, New World School of the Arts, Miami, Fla.
  • Chase Bautista, bass / Prospect High School, San Jose, Calif.


  • Santana Rojas, lead / Pebble Hills High School, El Paso, Texas
  • Cameron Davidson / Tucson High Magnet School, Tucson, Ariz.
  • Jack Towse / Friends Academy, Huntington, N.Y.
  • Skylar Tang, solo chair / Crystal Springs Uplands School, Foster City, Calif.
  • Lóren Littlejohn / Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Washington, D.C.


  • Brandon Goldberg, piano / Pine Crest School, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  • John Murray, bass / San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, San Diego, Calif.
  • Colman Burks, drums / Plano West Senior High School, Plano, Texas
  • Blake Slaughter, guitar / Fine Arts Center, Greenville, S.C.
  • Ellah Brown, vocal / Rutherford High School, Rutherford, N.J.
  • Kobie Andrews, steel pan / College Park Academy, Springdale, Md.

Created in 1971 as a part of Monterey Jazz Festival’s continuing commitment to jazz education, former members of the orchestra include many professional musicians, including pianists Kris Bowers, James Francies, Benny Green, and Patrice Rushen; bassist Larry Grenadier; drummer Chad Wackerman; saxophonists Joshua Redman, Donny McCaslin, Eric Marienthal, Ted Nash, Mark Turner, and Dave Koz; flutist Elena Ayodele Pinderhughes; trombonists Natalie Cressman and Andy Martin; trumpeters Ambrose Akinmusire, Gilbert Castellanos, and Tanya Darby; and big band leader Gordon Goodwin, to name a few.

For more information on the Monterey Jazz Festival’s education programs, please visit

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!