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Jazz Festival paving the way for future musicians

Rochester, N.Y. - Each year at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, organizers and festival-goers celebrate student musicians and the future of music with the Gerry Niewood Jazz Scholarship Concert.

At this year's concert on Monday night, two local high school seniors were awarded scholarships to attend the Eastman School of Music in as freshmen in the fall.

Ryder Easton, a School of the Arts graduate, and CJ Ziarniak, an Aquainas Institute graduate were this year's winners.

"It's really good," Easton said. "(The scholarship is) going to make funding my education a lot easier."

Ziarniak said that this scholarship takes some of the financial burden of attending college off his shoulders.

"Because of this scholarship, I will be able to focus on practicing and getting better," he explained.

Since the Rochester International Jazz Festival Scholarship fund was established in 2002, organizers have awarded more than 30 scholarships totaling more than $125,000.

Funding from the scholarship comes from festival patrons and donations.

Since the company became the main sponsor of the festival, the Xerox Corporation has also come up with ways to collect donations for the scholarship fund.

This year, festival-goers can check out the Jazz Cam 360 Photobooth. They can use prop trumpets, saxophones , hats, sunglasses and feather boas to take a 360 degree picture. Forty digital cameras capture people with their family and friends posing for the funny picture.

People who decide to purchase a print are asked to make a $5 donation to the scholarship fund, but according to Lori Francis, Xerox's director of marketing, people have left a lot more than the suggested amount.

Xerox has already collected hundreds of dollars for the scholarship fund so far. Their goal is to collect more than $3,000 by the end of the festival this year.

"I believe that the students that are involved in music and take it on become some of the best and the brightest and I hope that someday, by helping the kids that are here, we will see them up on that Eastman stage," Francis explained.

This year, two past scholarship winners performed at the jazz festival as professional musicians - Mike Cottone who won the scholarship in 2003, and Karl Stabnau who won in 2008 and 2010.

"I wasn't sure I was going to be a trumpet player, but when I got that scholarship I was like 'Oh, people are actually noticing that I am working on this,'" Cottone explained. "It was bit of a kick to keep playing music and I haven't looked back since."

This is Cottone's second year performing at the jazz festival as a featured artist.

Ziarniak said that he hopes this scholarship and his education becomes a catalyst for his music career.

"A lot of the other players who have won the scholarship, they've gone on to do really great things," Ziarniak said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to follow in their footsteps."

 
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