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  • Donny Thompson, M.S., NPA

JOI awards the first Richard Salvatore Soranno Memorial Scholarship for Jazz to Ilai Macaggi

Richard Salvatore Soranno, age 18, was a gifted musician who attended the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, performing as a jazz pianist in the school’s award-winning jazz program.Richard was born on November 18, 2001 in Las Vegas to Kathryn (Crawford) Gentile and the late Richard Steven Soranno.All who love Richard, his countless friends and family, and his mother and stepfather Kathryn and Dominic Gentile, will always remember his kindness, charisma, terrific personality and his infectious smile. His love of music and amazing talent on the piano brightened the lives of many during his life and will continue to be with us forever.

Carl and Nicholas Soranno and their families reached out to Jazz Outreach Initiative (JOI) for the purpose of establishing the Richard Salvatore Soranno Memorial Scholarship for Jazz. Their generous donation of $1,000 and a desire to repeat this generous offer annually for a select Clark County School District High School Senior who will pursue an undergraduate degree in Jazz is a truly fitting tribute to the lasting legacy and memory of a beloved local jazz student, Richard Soranno.

Our inaugural recipient for the 2020 Richard Salvatore Soranno Memorial Scholarship for Jazz is Mr. Ilai Macaggi, trombone virtuoso from Green Valley High School, where he studied under the direction of music educator Cara Froelich. Ilai is a member of numerous musical ensembles both at Green Valley High School and across the Las Vegas valley including the Clark County School District Honor Bands, Southern Nevada Band Association's Honor Jazz Bands, Nevada All-State Jazz Bands, The JOI Sextet, and countless performances across Southern Nevada. Ilai has also been featured on CBS Affiliate, KLAS 8 News Now with Nathan Tannenbaum, the Las Vegas Jazz Society’s “Jazz Notes” magazine and other media outlets. Ilai was a featured outstanding soloist at each of the three annual finale concerts of the Essentially Ellington Regional High School Jazz Band Festival licensed by Jazz at Lincoln Center and co-hosted by UNLV Division of Jazz and Commercial Music and Jazz Outreach Initiative. Ilai was also a member of The Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, an ensemble sponsored by The Monterey Jazz Festival made up of 21 of the nations most accomplished high school jazz musicians. Most recently he has been a member of JOI’s newly formed Las Vegas Youth Jazz Orchestra which has produced YouTube recordings featuring his solo work.

Humbled by the Soranno family’s generosity and his friendship with Richard, Ilai recorded “Song for My Father,” by Horace Silver and dedicated it to Richard and his family who listed the song as one with special meaning to them. In that dedication, Ilai says, “I played with Rich and spent time with him throughout my high school career and he had a definite affect on me as a person and a player.” One of those times was when the two played together their freshman year with the Nevada All-State Jazz Ensemble where Ilai was struck by Richard’s level of dedication, his work ethic, and his passion for his role in making the band the best it could be. “He had a kind soul and a joyous atmosphere. He had an energy that just made everyone around him better and happier. He had a profound affect on my work ethic, as well as the way I approach music.” Ilai Macaggi will join the jazz program at the Juilliard School, under the direction of Wynton Marsalis, and study with the luminary trombone artist, Elliot Mason.

Please enjoy this video presentation from Mr. Ilai Macaggi dedicated to his friend Richard Salvatore Soranno, “Song for My Father,” by Horace Silver.

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