For the second year in a row Johnny Steele has been selected for a Young Arts scholarship. Johnny is 16 and plays in Gilbert Castellanos’ 9am combo. Johnny was one of 5 percussionists selected nationwide to receive an award from Young Arts and stands to win $10,000 and a chance to study with mentors in Miami, New York or L.A. His top choice is to study with Wynton Marsalis in New York.
Johnny is making his mark on the SD Jazz Scene. He is often asked to play in Gilbert’s house band for the Wednesday Night Jam Sessions. He was recently featured in the SD Reader in an article written by IAJSD Board Member Robert Bush called “Drums of Steele”:
Johnny will graduate from SCPA this year, just after his 17th birthday, and plans to head off to college to continue his Jazz education. He is already getting some great news from some of the top Jazz schools in the U.S. He was accepted to The Berklee School of Music with a nice scholarship. He also submitted pre-screening audition recordings to several other schools. If the college likes the pre-screening recording they invite the applicant in for a live audition. So far Johnny has passed the pre-screening at Manhattan School of Music, University of Miami Frost School of Music and USC Thornton School of Music. He will be visiting each college in January and February to interview and audition live. He is still waiting to hear from Juilliard and The New School, both in New York, and UCLA.
Gilbert, Johnny’s combo leader for the past two years, knows the director of the Jazz program at the Frost School of Music in Miami and was able to arrange a VIP tour for Johnny last fall. Johnny really liked what he saw and was even able to sit in on a few classes. Gilbert also wrote a letter of recommendation for Johnny to help him with the application process. Gilbert is a firm believer in studying music at the college level, he himself has a BA from Berklee College and his master’s from Cal Arts, and has offered to help IAJSD students get into the music college of their choice.
We congratulate Johnny on his tremendous accomplishments so far and are excited to see where he goes from here! Good luck on those live auditions at all those incredible schools!