THE next Kiwi jazz sensation could be unearthed in Tauranga this Easter, when a record 320 students vie for glory at the 41st National Youth Jazz Competition.
Next week the 56th National Jazz Festival Tauranga begins.
Kicking off the event (March 28-30) is the youth competition which sees 17 combos and 14 big bands from secondary schools across the country strutting their stuff at Baycourt – looking to follow in the footsteps of past winners including Nathan Haines, Hollie Smith and Sacha Vee.
Schools from as far south as Canterbury and as far north as Kerikeri will make the trip, with locals from Mount Maunganui College and Otumoetai College competing for the first time alongside fellow newcomers from Christchurch's St Andrews College and Hamilton's St Paul's Collegiate School.
"For 41 years the National Youth Jazz Competition has showcased the hottest young jazz talent from across the country," says National Youth Jazz Competition director Liam Ryan.
"This year we have been overwhelmed with registrations and a positive result of this is extending the competition across three days to showcase everyone."
A total of 18 individual trophies are up for grabs along with the three supreme awards, New Orleans Trophy for the Most Outstanding Big Band; Norman Family Trophy for the best Jazz Combo; and Best of Festival Trophy.
Pukekohe High School will be back to defend their 2017 New Orleans and Best of Festival trophies alongside 2017 Norman Family Trophy winners Lynfield College.
But they will have to hit the right notes again with plenty of stiff competition, including from local contender Tauranga Boys' College, which is entering one big band and two combos.
Tauranga Boys' College director of arts John Page says the competition is the perfect "starting block" for the school year, helping accustom the students to new music and partnerships while building towards an annual end of year tour performing at schools and rest homes.
"It's a good catalyst to get the bands up and running. It allows us to delve into a form of music that the boys don't choose on their own and provides a holistic view on jazz styles and pieces," John says.
"It's really around giving the boys a much wider view of music."
While the students are battling it out on stage, one of the National Jazz Festival's headline acts will hold the final say in who reigns supreme come the end of the week.
Dr Rodger Fox – New Zealand's foremost jazz trombonist – sits as head judge and will be assisted by American bassist Dewayne Pate and saxophonist Dave Wilson.
"We are thankful for these three jazz superstars giving up their time to help foster the vibrancy and enthusiasm that is youth jazz," says Liam.
"The future of jazz is looking bright and we can't wait to see what talent is on show in 2018."
The 41st National Youth Jazz Competition runs from March 28 to 30. For details and tickets visit www.jazz.org.nz
Local bands competing
Tauranga Boys' College
Mount Maunganui College
Tauranga Girls' College