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.

2018 Piano Competition to take place December 2-3 in Washington, D.C.

Weekend Includes All-Star Gala Concert Honoring Jazz Legend Dee Dee Bridgewater and Special Tribute to Longtime Institute Supporter Aretha Franklin

Washington, D.C —The 30th Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Competition will be presented December 2-3 in Washington, DC. Open to musicians ages 30 and under from across the globe, this year’s competition will shine a spotlight on the piano.

The Semifinals of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Piano Competition will be held on Sunday, December 2nd, from noon to 5:00 p.m. at the Smithsonian Institution’s Baird Auditorium inside the National Museum of Natural History. The 14 semifinalists will compete before an all-star panel of judges that includes jazz pianists Monty Alexander, Joanne Brackeen, Cyrus Chestnut, Herbie Hancock, Jason Moran, Danilo Pérez and Renee Rosnes. Each semifinalist will perform for 15 minutes, accompanied by Rodney Whitaker on bass and Carl Allen on drums.

From this group, the judges will select three finalists who will perform in the final round at The Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater on Monday evening, December 3rd. At stake is more than $100,000 in scholarships and prizes, including a $25,000 first place scholarship and guaranteed recording contract with Concord Music Group; a $15,000 second place scholarship; and a $10,000 third place scholarship.

Following the three finalists’ performances at the Competition Finals, an All-Star Gala Concert will include a special tribute to the late Aretha Franklin, who was an Institute supporter for more than two decades through her many performances and contributions to the Institute’s jazz education programs. NEA Jazz Master, multiple GRAMMY Award-winning vocalist, and Tony Award-winning actress Dee Dee Bridgewater will receive this year’s Maria Fisher Founder’s Award. The event will bring together major names in jazz, including past Competition winners and finalists Ambrose Akinmusire, Melissa Aldana, Kris Bowers, Jazzmeia Horn, Linda Oh, and Jamison Ross. They will be joined by John Beasley (Musical Director), Jimmy Heath, Ledisi, and others. Also performing will be the graduate-level college students who attend the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at UCLA. Additional talent will be announced shortly.

Proceeds from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Piano Competition and All-Star Gala Concert will help fund the Institute’s public school education programs in Washington D.C., Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Newark, San Francisco and the Mississippi Delta.

Read the full press release here.

Learn more about the talented 2018 Semifinalists.

The Competition Semifinals on Sunday, December 2nd, 2018 are free and open to the public. Doors will open at 11:00 a.m. and tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Click here to purchase tickets for the Competition Finals on Monday, December 3rd at the Kennedy Center.

For information on sponsorship and VIP packages around the 2018 Competition, give us a call at 202-364-7272.

2010 Competition Winner Cécile McLorin Salvant Featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk

National Public Radio released the latest edition of its popular Tiny Desk YouTube series today, featuring GRAMMY Award-winning vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant. McLorin Salvant, who won the 2010 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Vocals Competition, performed a four-song live set accompanied by pianist Sullivan Fortner.

Reviewing the performance, NPR Music Producer Suraya Mohamed called McLorin Salvant “a seasoned jazz singer with a vast vocal range, meticulous technical execution and a superb classical vocal foundation, which actually began when she was just 8. Her background in classical piano is evident in the inventive harmonic and melodic construction of the first three songs heard here; all are romantically themed McLorin Salvant compositions from her third album, For One to Love.”

Watch the whole concert here:

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. This high-profile annual event has launched the careers of (in addition to McLorin Salvant) Marcus Roberts, Joshua Redman, Chris Potter, Jacky Terrasson, Joey De Francesco, Ambrose Akinmusire, Ben Williams, Jane Monheit and Melissa Aldana, to name a few.

Learn more about the Competition.

2015 Competition winner Jazzmeia Horn featured at PyeongChang Olympics

2015 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Vocals Competition winner Jazzmeia Horn was featured as part of the closing exhibition gala for the PyeongChang Olympics on Sunday. Olympic gold medalist and figure skating phenom Alina Zagitova delivered a striking routine, dubbed “priestess of fire,” to the tune of Horn’s haunting rendition of “Afro Blue.” Horn’s distinctive arrangement, which features the singer improvising in vocalese accompanied only by drummer Jerome Jennings, served as a fitting backdrop to Zagitova’s captivating and athletic final performance.

“Afro Blue” appears on Horn’s Grammy-nominated debut album, A Social Call, released in 2017 on Concord Music’s Prestige label. For nearly a decade, Monk Institute Competition winners have enjoyed a guaranteed recording contract with Concord Music Group. For many, a first-place win at the competition represents their first major exposure among the listening public, and is instrumental in taking their burgeoning career to the next level.

This is not the first time Institute artists have been represented at the 2018 winter games. On February 18, Institute teaching artist and International Jazz Day All-Star Dianne Reeves saw her original composition “Tango,” from the 2013 album Beautiful Life, back Canadian ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje in their short skate program. This choice jives with the International Skating Union’s selection of “salsa, samba, bachata and/or meringue” as the official dance options for PyeongChang.

Check out video of Zagitova’s routine on NBC’s website.