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Young Jazz Talents Play Off In Competition To Continue Great Musician's Legacy

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High schoolers from around the country competed Sunday at an annual festival honoring jazz legend Charles Mingus at the Manhattan School of Music, and scholarships and a chance to play with the Mingus Big Band were on the line. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.

After countless hours of practice, young jazz musicians from across the country played their hearts out Sunday at the Manhattan School of Music in Morningside Heights, performing the music of a legend, Charles Mingus.

More than 30 years after Mingus died of Lou Gehrig's disease in 1979, a new generation is embracing his music in the fifth annual Charles Mingus High School Competition and Festival.

"Charles was a bassist, a band leader and above all, first and foremost, a composer and he put his stamp on American music. He left one of the largest legacies," said Sue Mingus, the musician's widow and a co-producer of the festival and competition.

Sue Mingus said her late husband's complex repertoire resonates particularly with young people.

"He demands that you bring your own voice to the music and he's a rebel and kids are rebels and they want to find their own voice," she said.

"We can all say it's kind of something that you can express yourself in," said Henry Lunetta, a guitarist in the Rio Americano High School Miguyz Jazz Combo. "I mean, jazz is in general, but especially Mingus just because it's so out there and it's so loose."

The musicians got a chance to showcase their talents by playing only Mingus' music on competition day. The free festival also included clinics and jam sessions.

"What we're trying to do is spread the 'gospel of jazz,' so to speak. That's exactly why we're doing this. But the other things is that we read in papers constantly about students, young people who are in trouble, but you never read about students who are doing really well," said Justin DiCioccio, a co-producer of the festival and competition.

At the end of the day, the competitors stood to win big prizes, including scholarships to the Manhattan School of Music, and one soloist was to be chosen to sit in with the Mingus Big Band at the famous Jazz Standard.

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