Jazz student Leek wins international competition

Oct. 22, 2013—UO graduate student Jessika Leek has been named the winner of the Seattle Women's Jazz Orchestra's First Annual Composition Contest for her original composition "Lights." The piece will be performed by Ingrid Jensen, renowned trumpet player, on Oct. 24 as part of Seattle's Earshot Jazz Festival.

"I applied to gain experience in the music industry; I never expected to win," Leek said. It's an especially impressive accomplishment, considering that the judges received submissions from five countries on four continents.

After meeting Jensen last January, Leek, who is a saxophonist and composer in the UO's revered Jazz Studies program, has enjoyed the opportunity to play with Jensen in Seattle, as well as in two Oregon Jazz Festival concerts in Eugene.

Although the Seattle Women's Jazz Orchestra did not announce as part of the competition rules that the winner would have a piece performed by Jensen, Leek deduced the trumpet player's participation by clues she gleaned from the announcement.

After that detective work, Leek listened to Jensen's music, observed her style, and crafted her piece with Jensen in mind.

"Jensen has always been a huge inspiration to me and it feels surreal that she will be playing my piece," says Leek, who has also performed under the name Jessika Smith.

"When playing with [Jensen] last year she told me 'I can tell that you have a story to tell,' which gave me the confidence I needed to continue to pursue music," Leek continued.

Leek received her BA and teaching certificate in K–12 music education from Eastern Washington University. She studied music composition with Robert Tapper and saxophone performance with UO graduate Todd DelGuidice, before enrolling at the UO.

"My background highly contributed to my ability to write for the competition," Leek explained. "The piece was required to be playable by both a high school and professional ensemble. This proved to be a huge challenge to compose for a brilliant and extraordinarily talented musician like Jensen and students who are still developing their skills. My scholastic background in music education allowed me to integrate both levels."

Leek is currently studying Jazz Performance and Pedagogy with an emphasis on jazz arranging and composition at the UO, and works as a Graduate Teaching Fellow in the mass studies area as a music director and coach.

"I met Steven Owen, director of jazz studies at U of O, at a summer reading session while completing my undergrad at Eastern Washington University and he highly influenced my decision to continue my education at the U of O," Leek enthused. "He is an amazing educator who I have learned so much from since I have been here."

--Victoria Schmidt

Upcoming Performances by Jessika Leek

Oct. 24, 7:30 p.m.
"Lights" at Earshot Jazz Festival
Performed by the SWOJO and Ingrid Jensen
Kirkland Performance Center, Kirkland, WA
Tickets: $22

Nov. 7, 7:30 p.m.
Women in Jazz
Performing with Whitney Moulton, Andria Martin, Susan Lucia
The Jazz Station, Eugene

Nov. 15, 7 p.m.
Performing with Todd Delgiudice as part of the Fall Big Bands Concert
Beall Concert hall, Eugene
Tickets: $7 general admission, $5 students and seniors