Fresh off her role as Fantine in Les Misérables, Zion Dyson ’19 was one of six finalists selected to perform at the 49th Annual Next Generation Jazz Festival, held in Monterey, California April 5-7, 2019.
Zion earned first place in the High School Vocal Soloist Division, and her band, the New Soil Ensemble, came away with third-place honors. Although this was her fourth year performing with the ensemble and her second year to be selected for the vocal soloist, this was her first win. The prize includes an invitation to return to Monterey in September to perform at the Monterey Jazz Fest in a 30-minute set.
Part of what made the Next Generation Jazz Festival experience so special is that the vocal soloists participate in a clinic at the event; judges did workshops with them, experimenting with tempo, singing styles and more. Zion performed some of her own arrangements of jazz standards and notes, “It’s cool to have that creative aspect.”
Both she and the New Soil members work together at the Young Lions Jazz Conservatory. She says, “It’s really special, there are so many young people, and we all share the same kind of passion for jazz. Jazz is a constant in my life.” Indeed, practicing music keeps her centered, despite her school commitments and activities. In fact, she mentioned one of the hardest parts of performing in Les Mis was that it required a “different mindset, focused on acting and emotion.”
The next big performance on her calendar is the May 25 Heart of a Child benefit concert. She and her accompanist from New Soil were among the performers selected via audition to perform in the annual charitable event that raises funds for children’s music therapy in hospitals.
With jazz as such a mainstay in her life, Zion plans to continue to study it in college at the New England Conservatory in Boston.
Zion is pictured at right with her teacher, Young Lions Jazz Conservatory director Gilbert Castellanos.