Ryoma Takenaga Wins YoungArts Award

Bassist Ryoma Takenaga of New Providence, NJ, a student at the Academy for Information Technology in Berkeley Heights, has received a 2022 YoungArts Award in Jazz. He has been recognized at the Honorable Mention level, the organization’s second highest honor.

Takenaga was featured twice in Jersey Jazz Magazine over the past 1 ½ years. In May/June 2020 (“The Bright Future of Jazz”), he was recognized as one of three students from the New Jersey Youth Symphony Orchestra who won Outstanding Soloist Awards at the February 2020 Charles Mingus Festival and High School Competition. In May 2021 (“Carnegie Hall Youth Ensemble Will Have a New Jersey Cadence This Summer”) he was featured as one of three New Jersey high school students who were accepted into the Carnegie Hall Youth Ensemble.

The YoungArts Award was presented to “720 of the most accomplished young visual, literary and performing artists from throughout the country. YoungArts award winners, all 15–18 years old or in grades 10–12, are chosen for their caliber of artistic achievement by esteemed discipline-specific panels of artists through a rigorous blind adjudication process. YoungArts award winners gain access to one of the most comprehensive programs for artists in the United States, in which they will have opportunities for financial, creative and professional development support throughout their entire careers.” For more information about becoming a YoungArts award winner, log onto youngarts.org.

Said Takenaga, “I enjoy the sense of community that I have found in the jazz world.  Early on, I realized that the bassist holds a big responsibility in the band. We are responsible for listening to all the voices of the band while interacting with bandmates to maintain the harmonic and rhythmic structure. While being the driving force of the music, as bassist I must simultaneously put the voices of others forward. This has allowed me to grow as a jazz musician.  I truly enjoy performing with others and also enjoy my role as a Teaching Assistant for the New Jersey Youth Symphony Big Band.”

Having played the upright bass for eight years, Takenaga has been a member of the NJYS Jazz Orchestra since 2018. He currently is also part of the Baker Street Trio, with drummer Ben Schwartz and pianist Ben Collins-Siegel. The trio performed at the New Jersey Jazz Society Virtual Jazz Social this past October, opened for the Bernie Williams-Gil Parris Quartet at The Woodland in Maplewood (also in October), and played at the Grand Finale of the Montclair Jazz Festival in September. 

 The New Jersey Youth Symphony, founded in 1979, is a tiered orchestral program offering ensemble education for students in grades 3-12 across New Jersey. The current NJYS Jazz Artist-in-Residence, drummer Dennis Mackrel was featured in the November 2021 issue of Jersey Jazz (“Dennis Mackrel Assumes New Role at New Jersey Youth Symphony Jazz Program”). For more information about NJYS, visit WhartonArts.org.




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The New Jersey Jazz Society (NJJS) is a non-profit organization of business and professional people, musicians, teachers, students and listeners working together for the purpose of advancing jazz music.