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Times teen movie critic chosen for jazz honors

Billy Norris, teen movie critic for the St. Petersburg Times Xpress section, has a new gig: He will perform in Los Angeles in February as a member of the 2005 Gibson/Baldwin Grammy Jazz Ensembles. Norris, 17, is one of just 29 high school musicians and vocalists chosen from more than 400 students nationwide to perform in the ensembles.

Norris, who plays bass, will be part of the three-piece jazz combo. There also will be a big band and a jazz choir. All three groups will perform at events surrounding the 47th annual Grammy Awards, which will be held Feb. 13. While the groups won't perform on the Grammy telecast, they will attend the show.

The large jazz band, choir and combo will perform at the Grammy Awards Pre-Telecast Ceremony, a nominee reception, a postceremony celebration and at a variety of tributes and salutes Feb. 8 to 13, and will play with jazz singer Jon Hendricks and saxophonist Benny Golson. The groups also will be part of a tribute to pianist Horace Silver.

Although he has 18 pieces to learn before heading to Los Angeles, Norris says he is excited about the challenge and the chance to play with so many talented musicians.

"This is opening up an endless amount of possibilities," said Norris, a junior at Seminole High School. Students who participate in the ensembles may be awarded college scholarships from the Berklee College of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, the New School University Jazz Program and the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music.

It has been a busy year musically for Norris, who is the leader of a jazz/blues/funk band, the Billy Norris Project. He recently was named to the Florida Music Educators Association All-State Jazz Ensemble that will perform Jan. 7 at the Tampa Convention Center.