If there was a Super Bowl for jazz ensembles, it would be the Monterey Jazz Next Generation Festival, and the College of San Mateo Jazz Ensemble will be competing there on March 11. The Next Generation Festival has invited only six collegiate bands, chosen by nationwide blind audition, to perform as finalists in the College Big Band Division. CSM is in exclusive company: since the inclusion of collegiate bands in 2012, only 5 out of 78 finalists have been from community colleges. Out of those, there are only three schools that have been selected – Brookhaven, Santa Barbara, and College of San Mateo.

Each spring, the Next Generation Festival invites the nation’s top student musicians from middle school, high school and colleges to play their hearts out. This year CSM is up against Sacramento State University, University of Denver, University of Central Oklahoma, the University of Miami and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

College of San Mateo Jazz Ensemble began in the 1960s and the current director, Mike Galisatus, has been its soul since 1993. He feels honored to be chosen to perform along the elite of the elite at the festival. “This recognition is a feather in the hat for community colleges,” says Galisatus. He refers to the band as “the best kept secret in town.” Performing at Next Generation Festival sets precedent and reestablishes the level of talent at community colleges, he says.

Saxophone player and vocalist Jewel Molejona, a business major from El Camino High School, has been in the Jazz Ensemble for three years. The competition excites her as it “is something to look forward to other than just showcasing,” says Molejona. It has brought the team closer; she says as they only have a few months to prepare.

Michael Galea has been a trumpet player with the band since 2012. He started his education at CSM and went on to pursue jazz studies at the University of the Pacific. Because of this, Galea is no newcomer to the festival. In 2015, he represented the University of the Pacific at the Next Generation Festival. He feels the strength of the band is its unity and credits Galisatus. “The real central power to the band is Mike Galisatus,” says Galea. I have worked with many directors and educators, and he is the best, and there isn’t a close second.” As the band prepares for their day, the focus is on the band playing to their potential and giving it their best effort, which is a victory for Galisatus.

The next time fans can hear the CSM jazz on campus will be Friday, April 27 at their Annual Jazz Festival.

More information can be found on the Monterey Jazz Festival website

(Submitted by CSM Student Maitri Desai)