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3 Milwaukee High School of the Arts seniors win honors in prestigious DownBeat Magazine awards

DownBeat Magazine is honoring three MHSA vocalists.Three students from the Milwaukee High School of the Arts Vocal Jazz Ensemble have won honors from one of the country’s most prestigious student competitions, DownBeat Magazine’s Student Music Awards.   

The three seniors, their award by DownBeat, the category in which each won, and their winning songs are:  

 Akira Harris, winner, blues/pop/rock soloist; singing “Ain’t No Sunshine,” by Bill Withers, and “All I Ask,” by Adele 

Lily Elon Edmond, outstanding performance, blues/pop/rock soloist; singing “What Was I Made for,” by Billie Eilish, and “Before I Let Go,” by Frankie Beverly  

Dystince Robertson, outstanding performance, vocal jazz soloist; singing “There Will Never Be Another You,” by Harry Warren, and “Good Morning Heartache,” by Irene Higginbotham 

In the past school year, Akira Harris was among the winners of the YoungArts awards, a national competition, in the category of popular voice, and Dystince Robertson became the very first winner of the national Ravenscroft Jazz Prize for developing musicians, ages 17 to 19.  

The MHSA Vocal Jazz Ensemble is made up of the most advanced students enrolled in the vocal music program at the school.  Akira Harris, Lily Elon Edmond, and Dystince Robertson are the honored vocalists.

The DownBeat Magazine Student Music Awards are considered among the top student music competitions in the world. The competition offers categories for junior high, high school, and university music students and bands.   

The judges — all professional musicians and educators — assess entrants on these criteria: musicianship, creativity, improvisation, technique, sound quality and balance, excitement, and authority. The criteria are similar to those used in the magazine’s album reviews.  

The awards are announced in the magazine’s June issue, released Thursday, May 9. DownBeat Magazine has been publishing since 1934; these Student Music Awards are the 47th annual.   

The awards earned by MHSA students this year mark the 12th time since 2014 that members of the MHSA Vocal Jazz Ensemble have been recognized by this prestigious organization. MHSA boasted double winners in 2017 and 2021, but never before have three MHSA students won in a single year.  

“It is so thrilling to see our Milwaukee Public Schools students’ names listed along with the best and brightest young musicians on the planet,” said Raymond Roberts, vocal music director at MHSA. “Keep your eye on these brilliant young singers. They will continue to share their artistic excellence in ways that beautify and enrich our city for generations to come.” 

 Milwaukee High School of the Arts, 2300 W. Highland Ave., Milwaukee, offers students the chance to select an arts-focused major of creative writing, dance, theater, music, or visual art and receive at least two class hours of instruction a day focused on that major.  

Students commit to one area of the arts for all four of their years at the school. In addition to its focus on the arts, MHSA also provides an academically challenging educational program that includes Advanced Placement and honors courses. Students may select from more than 12 AP courses for both high school and college credit.  


Stephen Davis, Media Relations Manager
(414) 475-8675
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