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December 11
1975 - Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society incorporates as a 501c3 nonprofit [Heritage Junction]


The RK Downs Jazz Festival, will be held on Thursday, Feb. 6, hosted this year by West Ranch High School. Jazz ensembles from across the William. S. Hart Union High School District will take the stage beginning at 6 p.m. Also appearing, the GO Jazz Big Band, under the direction of Bob Babko, former music director of Valencia and West Ranch high schools.

Bob Downs | SCVHistory.com

Bob Downs | SCVHistory.com

The RK Downs Jazz Festival was established to recognize the immense contribution of Robert K. Downs, a music educator who laid the foundation for the high caliber music programs in the Wm. S. Hart District and College of the Canyons. Starting at Hart High School, when it was the only district high school, Downs grew the music program into a successful, highly regarded, award winning program, particularly in the area of jazz, where his influence extended beyond the district, evolving high school jazz bands into a more contemporary style of playing.

He went on to establish the music department at College of the Canyons, eventually serving as Fine Arts Department Chair. Not only have many of his students gone on to play professionally or semi-professionally, his work resulted in bringing into the community, other high quality music educators; among them, Larry Thornton, a long time band director at Hart High, and Dirk Fischer, who took over the Jazz program at COC. Sadly, both men passed away last year, but leave a legacy of having had a great impact on generations of student musicians.

Bob Babko

Bob Babko

Dirk Fischer established the RK Downs Jazz Festival, as recognition and appreciation of Downs, to bring together local high school jazz bands to play in an informal, friendly atmosphere, as a prelude to the competitive spring season, “Bob Downs did more to establish the quality and popularity of the music programs in this valley than any other single person,“ according to Bob Babko, who believes that the RK Downs Jazz Festival, is “a musical tradition in this valley well worth preserving.”

Admission is $5 and includes dinner. The proceeds will go to support the Hart District Honor Jazz Band.

For additional information, please contact Brian Leff, Director of Jazz Studies, West Ranch High School, (661)222-1220, ext. 645 or by email at bleff@hartdistrict.org.

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