Actor Blair Underwood to Host 2018 Competition Finals & Gala, December 3rd

The Institute is pleased to announce that award-winning actor, director and producer Blair Underwood will host the upcoming Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Piano Competition and All-Star Gala Concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. on December 3rd, 2018. One of the most recognizable faces in television and film, Underwood is renowned for his work on hit series including LA Law, Quantico and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Underwood will emcee the All-Star Gala Concert portion of the evening, introducing the tribute to music icon Aretha Franklin as well as the presentation of the Institute’s Maria Fisher Founder’s Award to legendary vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater.

The evening’s first half includes the Competition Finals, featuring three gifted young pianists performing before distinguished judges Monty Alexander, Joanne Brackeen, Cyrus Chestnut, Herbie Hancock, Jason Moran, Danilo Pérez and Renee Rosnes. The three finalists will be selected the previous afternoon, December 2nd, following the semifinals round at the Smithsonian Institution’s Baird Auditorium. At stake is more than $100,000 in scholarships and prizes, including a guaranteed recording contract with Concord Records.

After the thrilling Competition Finals, an all-star cast including Ambrose Akinmusire, Melissa Aldana, Kris Bowers, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Heath, Jazzmeia Horn, Ledisi, Jamison Ross, Kendrick Scott, Deborah Joy Winans, musical director John Beasley and more will deliver a series of unforgettable musical performances in honor of Aretha Franklin and Dee Dee Bridgewater.

For more information on the Competition Finals and All-Star Gala Concert, check out the official Facebook event or purchase tickets at the Kennedy Center website.

The Competition Semifinals are free and open to the public. Visit the Smithsonian Institution website for more details.