The John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year Award

About the Award

The John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year Award is named after a legendary jazz educator who served as a distinguished professor at Berklee College of Music for more than three decades. This award is offered in conjunction with the Jazz Education Network organization – presented at the national JEN conference and, starting in 2015, represented at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival.

LaPorta was an impressive teacher, colleague, and musician. He played a pivotal role in the earliest stage of formalized American jazz education—shaping the unique Berklee curriculum and influencing the artistic lives of thousands of students. This award recognizes an outstanding jazz educator who represents the highest standards of teaching and whose results in the classroom have brought distinction to their institution and their students.

The 2018 recipient is Dianne Downs!

Diane Downs, founder and artistic director of the Louisville Leopard Percussionists

 Diane Downs is the founder and artistic director of The Louisville Leopard Percussionists.  She is from Louisville, KY and began playing music at home at a very early age.  She participated in band throughout school and entered Morehead State University in Morehead, KY with a music scholarship.  After taking a year off of college to teach music in Montego Bay, Jamaica, she returned to Morehead to pursue her degree in elementary education.  Diane earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education from Morehead State University in Morehead, KY and a Rank 1 status from the University of Louisville in the areas of gifted education and jazz pedagogy.

Diane founded The Fabulous Leopard Percussionists in 1993, directed that group for ten years and then created The Louisville Leopard Percussionists, a non-profit, community based group.  She also assists the “We Got The Beat” percussion ensemble in Fresno, CA and serves as a consultant to numerous elementary percussion ensemble programs around the United States.  Diane has been a teacher in the Jefferson County Public School System since 1988, currently teaching Arts & Humanities at Norton Elementary.

In recognition for her work, Diane received the 1996 WHAS TV/PNC Bank ExCel Award, the 2001 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Arts Education, the 2004 Louisville Arts Council Community Arts Award in Music, the 2005 Today’s Woman Magazine Most Admired Woman in Louisville in Education Award, the 2008 National Cable Leaders in Learning Award, and the 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Living the Vision Award.

          February 10, 2018