Bassist Ryoma Takenaga Wins James Moody Scholarship

June 29, 2022

Bassist Ryoma Takenaga of New Providence is the recipient of the 2022 James Moody Jazz Scholarship for New Jersey. He will be presented with the award by Linda Moody, the late James Moody’s wife, on September 10 at the Jazz House Kids Montclair Jazz Festival Jamboree.

Takenaga, who will pursue a Musical Performance in Jazz Studies degree at New York University in the fall, has been featured twice in the pages of Jersey Jazz and was a member of the Baker Street Trio that performed at the New Jersey Jazz Society’s Virtual Social in October 2021.

In February 2020, Takenaga was one of three New Jersey Youth Symphony Jazz Orchestra members who won Outstanding Soloist awards at the 12th annual Charles Mingus Festival & High School Competition held at The New School of Jazz and the Jazz Standard in New York City. In the May/June 2020 issue of Jersey Jazz, Takenaga, then a sophomore at the Academy for Information Technology in Scotch Plains, said he started focusing on jazz and playing the upright bass when he was around nine years old. “Some of my most important teachers,” he said, “were Jose Rodriguez, who taught me the rudiments of upright bass and Ed Palermo, who introduced me to the endless creativity that jazz has to offer.” His jazz hero is Christian McBride. “The way he plays the bass,” Takenaga said, “and the groove he sets for the band continues to fascinate me.”

Takenaga was featured again in the May 2021 issue of Jersey Jazz when he was one of three New Jersey high school students to be accepted into the Carnegie Hall NYO Jazz Orchestra. Playing with NYO, he said, was “a dream come true. All musicians have some kind of big goal they want to reach,” he said, “and, for me, it was participating in NYO Jazz because it’s a rare opportunity to be in residence with and play jazz music with the best young musicians in the country, while, at the same time, receiving music instruction from excellent jazz musicians and educators.”

The James Moody Jazz Scholarship for New Jersey is a $5,000 prize, presented annually to an outstanding high school senior who embodies the qualities expressed by the NEA Jazz Master through his life and works – musicianship, creativity, leadership, and community involvement. In 2018, the Moody Scholarship was awarded to pianist Caelan Cardello, Jersey Jazz’s ‘Rising Star’ in January 2022.


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