Clarence Acox, winner of Down Beat’s 2001 Achievement in Jazz Education award, has led Seattle’s Garfield High School Jazz Band to worldwide fame. Recruited from Southern University in 1971, Acox is a hard-driving and regularly heard drummer on the Seattle jazz scene, where he co-directs the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra. He began developing the Garfield jazz program in 1979. The band has won the 2009 Essentially Ellington competition sponsored by Jazz at Lincoln Center, after having won two years in a row (2003-04), and has made the finals 10 out of 11 times. The band has been a consistent first-place winner at the Reno, Mt. Hood and Lionel Hampton Jazz Festivals; it performed four times at International Association of Jazz Educators Conventions and four times at the North Sea and Montreux Jazz Festivals.
Garfield graduates include Clark Gayton (trombone), Anne Drummond), Tatum Greenblatt (trumpet) and Cecil Young (trumpet). Garfield has had some other illustrious alums over the years, including Quincy Jones and Jimi Hendrix. Thanks to the educational direction initiated and sustained by Clarence Acox, Garfield lives up to their legacy today. -- Paul de Barros