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John Santos collaborating with San Francisco Jazz Organization (SFJAZZ)

Award: $35,000 Performing Arts grant awarded in 2006

Premiered: Fall 2007

Collaborating with SFJAZZ, renowned musician John Santos composed a suite for jazz orchestra that explored the indigenous music of the Caribbean and the Americas in a modern context. Traditions in Transition, was premiered by the SFJAZZ All-Star High School Ensemble—a dynamic, 20-piece Big Band boasting some of the most talented young musicians in Northern California—as part of SFJAZZ’s 25th Anniversary Festival.

Santos’s Traditions in Transition paid tribute to and built awareness of the historic relationship between jazz and Latin-American music. A Bay Area-based percussionist, composer, bandleader, and educator, Santos is one of the world’s leading contributors and cultivators of Afro-Latin music. For more than 30 years, he has been composing and performing Afro-Latin music as well as studying and teaching the music’s history.

As part of the preparation for the work’s premiere, Santos participated in rehearsals with the All-Star Jazz Band and taught the students about the music’s rhythms and influences. John Calloway arranged the work for the All-Stars, fleshing out the harmonic and structural aspects of the composition as part of this process.

More than 450 people attended the premiere of Traditions in Transition. The work was subsequently incorporated into the repertoire of the All-Star Jazz Band for 2008.

The San Francisco Jazz Organization (SFJAZZ) is a nonprofit organization devoted to jazz, an American art form with origins in the African American community and with an appeal that extends throughout the world. It encourages the growth of jazz and the development of jazz audiences through concert and education programs in the Bay Area and beyond.  The SFJAZZ All-Star High School Ensemble, directed by Dr. Dee Spencer, contained members from 19 schools in 16 cities throughout the SF Bay Area.