American Music Program Pacific Crest Jazz Orchestra

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The American Music Program Pacific Crest Jazz Orchestra is a nationally known jazz band in Portland, Oregon and magnet school program, professionally training young musicians from 7th-12th grade, under the direction of jazz trumpeter Thara Memory.


The band was founded in 2005, by Thara Memory and LeAnn Kritz. Many of the original members came from his previous band program at Beaverton's Arts and Communication Magnet Academy and from the jazz orchestra he led within Portland’s Metropolitan Youth Symphony. Currently the band draws from all over the Portland metropolitan area, including students from Portland Public Schools as well as from surrounding communities such as Battle Ground, Washington.[1]

The band performs in competitions across the country, including the Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center,[2][3][4][5] the Next Generation Jazz Festival in Monterey,[6][7][8][9][10][11] the Charles Mingus Festival and Competition,[12][13] Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Swing Central at the Savannah Music Festival, and locally at events such as the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival and the (newly formed in 2015) PDX Jazz Forward Competition.[14]

They have performed with or opened for Obo Addy,[15] (alumnus) Patrick Lamb, Bennie Maupin,[16] Chuck Redd, Curtis Salgado,[17] (alumna) Esperanza Spalding,[18] Terell Stafford, and Randy Weston[19] among others.

Notable achievements and alumni[edit]

Many students go on to attend (frequently with significant scholarship support) some of the country’s top music colleges, such as The Juilliard School,[20][21] Berklee College of Music,[22][23] Manhattan School of Music, The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, USC Thornton School of Music,[24][25] California Institute for the Arts, Oberlin College Conservatory, and others.[26] Students in the band have been selected for the Jazz Band of America, The Grammy Band,[27] and The Monterrey Next Generation Jazz Band.[28][29] Younger band members often get scholarships to attend the Berklee 5-Week Summer Program and the Vail Jazz Workshop.[30] Students in the band often also participate in the Metropolitan Youth Symphony, Portland Youth Philharmonic, PDX Jazz Project, or Alan Jones Academy of Music.

Notable alumni include Aubrey Cleland,[31] Esperanza Spalding, Hailey Niswanger,[32] and Patrick Lamb, among others.

On May 9, 2015, the group won Jazz at Lincoln Center's Essentially Ellington high school jazz band competition, playing Ellington's Tattooed Bride from memory.[33]


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