News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, February 20, 2020
GSA combo places second at National Jazz Festival

GSA shines at national festival

Director Steve Orlofsky stands with the members of Melodious Thunk, from left, Joey Mitchell, Ian Howell, Duncan Howell, Erika Hipsky, Quinn Stabler, Gabe Hall and Zeke Sacaridiz. The GSA jazz combo earned a No. 2 finish in the recent National Jazz Festival.

Photo courtesy of George Stevens Academy

A George Stevens Academy jazz ensemble earned second place in the inaugural National Jazz Festival in Philadelphia on February 15.

“Phenomenal,” said Director Steve Orlofsky of Melodious Thunk’s score of 192 out of a possible 200 points. The group finished just two points behind an ensemble from Princeton (N.J.) High School in Small Ensemble Division 2. The scores of the remaining groups in the division ranged from 130-186 points, according to a news release.

“Excellent group playing, wonderful dynamics,” said judge Matt Davis of Melodious Thunk’s performance of “Strasbourg St. Denis.” They also played “Feel” and “Two Timers.”

Melodious Thunk includes seniors Erika Hipsky on alto saxophone and flute, Duncan Howell on trombone, Ian Howell on baritone saxophone, Joey Mitchell on guitar and Quinn Stabler on bass, junior Zeke Sacaridiz on drums and vocals and sophomore Gabe Hall on trumpet.

Duncan Howell and Sacaridiz were named Outstanding Musicians in their division, two of three musicians to be so honored.

Three of Melodious Thunk’s musicians, Hipsky, Ian Howell and Stabler, were part of a GSA combo that took third place at last year’s Berklee High School Jazz Festival. Berklee’s decision to no longer host its high school festival is one reason why the National Jazz Festival was founded.

Melodious Thunk and other groups from GSA will compete with ensembles from Brewer, Bucksport, Ellsworth, MDI, and Shead in the Maine Music Educators Association District 6 Instrumental Jazz Festival at George Stevens Academy on Wednesday, February 26. For more information, visit