The Chantilly High School jazz ensemble recently was named the top high school jazz band in the United States by the music industry's Downbeat Magazine. The 20-member band was selected for the top honor out of about 400 high school bands that competed in the annual contest.

Band director Tony Aversano said part of the ensemble's winning formula was the youngsters' enthusiasm for music. "The kids live with their instruments. They go to concerts, have record collections and are into private music instruction," he said. He said the band practices about two hours a day and specializes in big band and swing sounds.

The band also won first-place honors in the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival the last three years, first place at the James Madison University Tri-State Festival in 1984 and first place at the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) concert and jazz band festival the last two years.

Aversano, who has directed winning bands at the school for 12 years, said this was the first time the band won the prestigious Downbeat award. "We've entered the contest three or four times before. But we have a really good band this year and these are the most dedicated kids I ever had," he said.