UIC senior Morgan Pirtle wins national jazz awards

Morgan Pirtle

UIC graduating student Morgan Pirtle has won a DownBeat Student Music Award. Photo: Colleen Garcia

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University of Illinois at Chicago student Morgan Pirtle, who is graduating in May from the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts and the Honors College, has received several national jazz awards for vocal music.

DownBeat magazine recently announced that Pirtle is a recipient of the DownBeat Student Music Awards 2018 “Outstanding Performance” award in the Vocal Jazz Soloist category, Undergraduate College. Each year, DownBeat magazine, one of the nation’s premier jazz publications, singles out exemplary jazz students across the country for their Student Music Awards.

Pirtle also recently won the prestigious Chicago-based Luminarts Jazz Fellowship, after winning the People’s Choice Award at the Luminarts 2018 Jazz Finals.

“As I approach graduation, receiving these awards is exciting and humbling. They are a reflection of the hours and passion that I have poured into my art these past four years, and I am extremely grateful to be recognized nationally,” said Pirtle.

Pirtle will graduate with honors from both the jazz studies program and the Honors College, which she attended on both merit and academic scholarships. She will receive a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies and plans to attend the Honors College ceremony on May 9, as well as the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts graduation ceremony on May 12.

At UIC, Pirtle studied with vocalist Cheryl Wilson and said the UIC School of Theatre and Music provided her with opportunities to work with some of the most respected and talented musicians in Chicago. She said the UIC Jazz Festival hosted annually by the School of Theatre and Music was an invaluable experience for her. It granted a young artist like herself “unmatchable opportunities” to work with and learn from well-known artists, including Rufus Reid, Robin Eubanks and Jon Faddis.

Morgan Pirtle

UIC graduating student Morgan Pirtle has won a DownBeat Student Music Award. Photo: Sandra Dib

“I have learned so much from my four years and am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to study with these amazing musicians,” she said. “These opportunities, among others, have shaped my career as a musician and a student at UIC, and I believe they will help jumpstart me into my life after graduation. The UIC School of Theatre and Music has made me feel so supported throughout my four years here and I am so thankful to be part of this community.”

Pirtle has been an outstanding contributor to jazz at UIC, and has performed both on- and off-campus with numerous jazz groups, including the Jazz Ensemble and Vocal Jazz Ensemble, according to UIC officials.

She has performed all over the Chicago area, including such venues as Schubas, the Jazz Showcase, the Promontory, the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival and the Chicago Summer Dance series. This summer she will be performing at the Jazzin’ at the Shedd series and the 2018 Chicago Jazz Festival, said Pirtle.

In addition to her career as a jazz vocalist, she currently works as membership, volunteer and office coordinator at the Jazz Institute of Chicago and is a co-founder of the Women’s Jazz Leadership Initiative. She will continue to run the initiative, which fosters a community of professional female musicians and students in the Chicago area by focusing on dialog between artists, making connections and exchanging musical ideas, she said.

“Morgan represents the kind of talent that is not commonly seen,” said Chris Madsen, interim director of jazz studies at the School of Theatre and Music at UIC. “Not only is she gifted with an immense natural talent, but she possesses the work ethic and drive to consistently improve upon that talent. To top it off, she is a stellar student as well. I have no doubt that she can become a household name.”

The DownBeat Student Music Awards are among the most prestigious awards in jazz education. Founded in 1976, hundreds of musicians, music educators and music industry professionals received their first international recognition as DownBeat Student Music Award winners.