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Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, January 31, 2019
GSA’s Jam Bake takes third at Berklee

Jam Bake at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival

Jam Bake and director Steve Orlofsky pose at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival Saturday, January 26, in Boston. Jam Bake took third place in the festival, the sixth time a combo from George Stevens Academy has placed throughout the school’s 17 years of participation.

Photo courtesy of Dave Hipsky

“It’s an exhilarating moment as a music educator anytime you can play with some of the best high school ensembles in the country and do better than all but one or two of them,” said George Stevens Academy’s Steve Orlofsky of the performance of Jam Bake at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival in Boston on Saturday, January 26, in a news release.

The combo, directed by Orlofsky, took third place in the festival. More than 200 high school ensembles participated.

Jam Bake is composed of Courtney Bianco ’19, alto sax; Edward Conte ’19, drums; Erika Hipsky ’20, alto sax and flute; Duncan Howell ’20, trombone; Quinn Stabler ’20, bass; LeeAnn Varnum ’19, soprano and tenor sax; Elana Williamson, ’19 vibes and piano; and Tess Williamson ’19, piano and vocals.

Jam Bake earned 274 of a possible 300 points from the three judges. Judge Ron Reid called the set of three songs “a brilliantly varied program and a pleasure to watch. … The camaraderie you shared with your background lines and feel changes was imaginative and endearing.”

This is the sixth time a GSA jazz combo has risen to the challenge and placed in the top four at the festival, which they did in 2004, 2005, 2010, 2011 and 2017.