Established in 1987, the Institute’s International Competition is the most prestigious of its kind, recognized for discovering the next generation of jazz masters. The competition focuses on a different instrument each year and features an all-star judging panel. Past judges have included Dave Brubeck, Quincy Jones, Diana Krall, Christian McBride, Marian McPartland and Pat Metheny, among many others. This high-profile annual event has launched the careers of Ambrose Akinmusire, Melissa Aldana, Joey De Francesco, Jane Monheit, Chris Potter, Joshua Redman, Marcus Roberts, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Tierney Sutton, Jon Irabagon, Jacky Terrasson and Ben Williams, to name a few. Dozens of semifinalists have forged successful careers as jazz performers and educators. The winners receive significant scholarships to support their college studies and private music lessons.
Each year the Competition receives an extraordinary amount of publicity and press coverage in a variety of publications from The New York Times and The Washington Post to People magazine. National Public Radio has presented one-hour specials on past competitions that have reached 20 million listeners, and Black Entertainment Television has produced competition documentaries featuring performance clips and interviews with the contestants and judges.
The 2019 Competition featured the guitar and took place in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian Institution and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The winners were Evgeny Pobozhiy (1st) from Seversk, Russia; Max Light (2nd) from Bethesda, Maryland; and Cecil Alexander (3rd) from Muskegon, Michigan. Read the press announcement and peruse videos and photos from the 2019 Competition below.