Garfield jazz history

Garfield Jazz was founded in 1979 by legendary band director Clarence Acox.

After bringing a jazz combo to the Reno Jazz Festival in 1978, Mr. Acox was convinced by students that they should form an ensemble and return to Reno the next year. Mr. Acox selected students from the band program to participate and not only did they return to Reno in 1979, they won the festival. And the rest is history…

About Mr Acox

A native of New Orleans, Mr Acox came to Seattle in 1971 straight out of Southern University, where he was recruited by Garfield High School to revive its moribund music program.

Under his four plus decades of leadership at Garfield, he made the name ‘Garfield’ synonymous with excellence in high school jazz. Garfield’s Jazz Ensemble won first place four times (2003, 2004, 2009, 2010) at New York’s Essentially Ellington National Jazz Band Competition and Festival at New York City’s Lincoln Center – the country’s most prestigious high school jazz competition. Under Acox’s direction, the jazz ensemble won just about every major competition on the West Coast.

Mr Acox retired from Garfield in 2019 and is still an active part in the Jazz community in Seattle in organizations like JazzED and the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, which he co-founded in 1995.

Mr Acox’s accomplishments are not limited to Garfield. He is also on the faculty at Centrum’s Jazz Port Townsend and is Director, High School Division Ensemble at the nonprofit jazz education organization, JazzEd. He also directed Seattle University’s jazz ensemble from 2005-10.

An accomplished and in-demand drummer in his own right, Acox co-founded the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra in 1995 and performed with the Floyd Standifer Quartet at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant for more than two decades.

Mr Acox has received numerous accolades for his achievements as both an educator and a musician.

  • He was named Earshot Jazz magazine’s Musician of the Year in 1992
  • In 1994, he was inducted into the Seattle Jazz Hall of Fame;
  • He was named Educator of the Year by DownBeat Magazine in 2001
  • In 2004, the Seattle Music Educator’s Association awarded him its Outstanding Music Educator award
  • In 2007, he received the Mayor’s Arts Award from Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels
  • In 2008, Seattle Metropolitan magazine named him one of the 50 most influential musicians in the history of Seattle music
  • He was a recipient of the Seattle City of Music Commission’s Impact Award in 2010
  • In 2011, ArtsFund presented him with its Outstanding Achievement in the Arts award
  • The City of Seattle officially proclaimed October 12, 2012 as Clarence Acox Day.