The New York State Blues Festival’s board of directors is pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 KJ James Memorial Scholarship.
Our first place winner is Jacob Fitzmaurice! Jacob Fitzmaurice is 18 years of age and plays jazz and blues guitar as well as French horn with several different groups. This past year, he participated in the All-County Jazz/Big Band, the NYSBDA wind ensemble, Area All-State Honor Band, and All-County Band. He performed with Solvay High School’s wind ensemble, Big Band, vocal jazz choir, and other musical productions. Outside of school events, he plays guitar during Sunday service at the Grace Assembly of God and also participates in the Assemblies of God Fine Arts Festival. He recently graduated with honors and will be attending Messiah College in Pennsylvania as a music business major this fall. Jacob’s musical influences include B.B. King, Chuck Berry, and John Mayer. Great job, Jacob!
In second place this year is Jacob Lawless! Jacob Lawless is also 18 years of age and plays tenor and bass trombone. He just graduated from Manlius Pebble Hill High School and plans to attend SUNY Purchase in the fall for Jazz Studies and Performing arts. He takes private lessons from Melissa Gardner and participates in her Sunday Jazz Jam every week. He also attends the Blues & Rock Jam session at Limp Lizard in Liverpool every Tuesday night. As well as playing with Blues Ignition, he is also a member of the band known as Buddhish and another called The Baked Potatoes. In addition, he performs with the City of Syracuse Parks and Rec. Stan Collela All-Star Band. Jacob has been a member of the Lemoyne College Jazz Ensemble for two years and played with the OCC Jazz Ensemble this year. He has performed in three musicals at the Redhouse in the past and been a part of the All county Band and Jazz Ensemble every year since 6th grade. He’s been lucky enough to sit in with many local bands, including the Ripcords, the Lightkeepers, and the Blacklites. Keep up the good work!
Last, but certainly not least, is our third place winner, Luke Puglisi! Luke Puglisi is 16 years of age and plays drums and other percussion instruments, plus he’s also learning to play the piano. He’s performed with our Blues Ignition program, the Westhill Percussion Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble and Wind Ensemble, All-County Band, and the Syracuse Youth Orchestra. He will be a senior in high school this coming school year. His greatest influence and inspiration is his late cousin, Scott Puglisi. We’d like to share a direct quote from Luke’s scholarship application: “Doing the thing that I loved is what gave me happiness and helped me become a better person. Whatever it is that you love, I urge you to work hard at it. People may try to persuade you to pursue the “smartest” option in life, or tell you that it’s more important to make a lot of money, but I promise that if you choose to do what you love, you will never turn out disappointed.” Indeed, Luke…indeed!
We’d like to congratulate all of these talented, young musicians and wish each of them the best of luck in the future with their education and with their musical careers. We’d also like to encourage all of our applicants to apply again next year. We’d love to hear from you again!