A 40-piece band featuring some of the world’s most high-profile jazz musicians playing alongside the nation’s up-and-coming music stars almost raised the roof of one of the largest big top tents Australia has ever seen at the weekend’s Generations in Jazz (GIJ) festival held in Mount Gambier, South Australia. The city famous for its Blue Lake cemented its reputation as the nation’s jazz capital, with more than 4400 young musicians from around Australia delivering the ultimate trumpet fanfare during two solid days of performances.

US jazz sensation Wycliffe Gordon, The University of North Texas’ One O’Clock Lab Band, Japanese vocal percussionist Kaichiro Kitamura, ARIA Award-winning The Idea of North, and Australian music icons James Morrison and Kate Ceberano shared the stage with a record 261 bands and vocal ensembles representing 107 schools who travelled from as far away as Perth, Rockhampton and even Auckland NZ to perform at the unique event. James Morrison, who is also the GIJ chairman, says GIJ continues to impress. “The international artists who come here perform all over the world but say there’s nothing like this anywhere – the atmosphere in here when thousands of young players see their heroes on the stage is just incredible,” he said.

Kate Ceberano performed at all three public concerts throughout the weekend, and described her inaugural visit to GIJ as “overwhelming”. “I don’t think I’ve ever done actually anything quite like this before because although I’ve been in stadiums with 18,000+ people, when you have 4 or 5,000 kids who are completely going crazy for jazz, you have to pinch yourself,” she said. “I wonder if Mount Gambier could become an Oxford – a real music destination (which) creates some of the most important music in the world. We’ve never had a stronger, more vibrant music community and with James Morrison at the helm, he’s going to take it into hyperdrive.”

A paddock on the outskirts of town was transformed by the enormous 90m X 45-metre James Morrison Pavilion seating a 6000-strong audience which included the SA Minister for Regional Development, Geoff Brock MP. “It’s my second year here and it’s just blown me away – you can’t explain it,” he said. “And one of the things that has really got me is the amount of volunteers that are here setting up and pulling down the tents, managing traffic and catering – it’s a huge job.”

The Federal Member for Mount Gambier, Tony Pasin MP, described GIJ as one of the best examples of how Mount Gambier can, and does, impress itself on the rest of the nation. “This festival showcases the best of our city, and of Australia’s youth at the same time. It’s truly amazing to see so many thousands of students, parents and teachers descend upon Mount Gambier annually to showcase and develop their skills. Credit must go to the world renowned James Morrison, Judi Morrison, the Board of Generations in Jazz and the hundreds of volunteers who work so hard every year for the success of this massive undertaking.”

A school band competition lies at the heart of GIJ, with Melbourne’s Blackburn High School this afternoon announced as the Division 1 winner of the City of Mount Gambier National Stage Band Awards ahead of Adelaide’s Marryatville High School. Adelaide’s Prince Alfred College claimed the Division 2 Section 1 category, and WA’s Carey Baptist College took out Section 2, with the school’s music director, Scott Loveday, winning the Wenger Band Director’s Award in recognition of outstanding leadership and inspiration in the field of jazz education. Melbourne’s Princes Hill Secondary College had the top vocal ensemble, with Marryatville High and Adelaide’s St Mary’s college rounding out the top three.

Two highly coveted scholarships designed to assist in career development were also handed out during this afternoon’s finale concert. James Morrison Academy of Music (JMA) student, Matthew Nichols, won the $10,000 James Morrison Scholarship for instrumentalists, which was awarded by Andrea Evans on behalf of the Evans family. The 19-year-old trumpet player previously studied at Canberra Grammar School before becoming one of the first students at JMA. “I’m ecstatic – I didn’t think that I would win and am so amazed by the calibre of the performers this year,” he said. “I’m planning to use the money to buy a new horn as mine’s a bit rusty, and then hopefully I’ll also be able to take my septet on tour.”

Singer Kayleigh Pincott, 21, secured the $5000 ANZ Vocal Scholarship in her third year as a finalist and says she will put the money towards a recording project. “I’m over the moon!” she said. “I felt a lot better this year – not as nervous and more comfortable in my ability, and it’s so great to come here and perform, but I have also made a whole new bunch of singer and instrumentalist friends.”

Currently in her fourth year of study at the Queensland Conservatorium, Kayleigh’s sensitive and captivating performance style, complemented by her strong sense of swing, has her labelled as one of Brisbane’s – and now Australia’s – most exciting young vocalists.

The Limestone Coast delivered on its reputation for impeccable country hospitality, with host venue The Barn serving up 17,600 meals to the students over the weekend – two dinners and two lunches at 4400 per sitting, with 150 staff serving everyone in just over an hour. Accommodation in Mount Gambier, Penola and Millicent was fully booked out, with many participating schools billeted in halls, clubrooms and private homes across the region.

“Just about every club, every school and every hall has been turned into accommodation,” James Morrison said. “I think Generations owns about 2600 blow up beds and the people of Mount Gambier just host them – some people have had 30 kids staying at their houses this weekend, with every room full of beds, and they’ve had an absolute ball!”