Washington, DC – The 2018 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Piano Competition and All-Star Gala Concert came to a thrilling conclusion following the announcement of Tom Oren (24), of Tel Aviv, Israel, as first place winner of the Competition. Tom then joined a host of jazz greats onstage to perform the Miles Davis tune “Walkin'” for the enthusiastic audience.
Presented by the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, the world’s preeminent jazz education organization, the Competition awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships and prizes, including a major scholarship and a guaranteed recording contract with Concord Music Group for the winner. The distinguished judges included Monty Alexander, Joanne Brackeen, Cyrus Chestnut, Herbie Hancock, Jason Moran, Danilo Pérez and Renee Rosnes.
The December 3rdevent at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater featured a star-studded Gala Concert with a tribute to the late Aretha Franklin and the presentation of the Institute’s Maria Fisher Founder’s Award to internationally celebrated vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater. Hosted by award-winning actor Blair Underwood, the evening featured amazing performances by a diverse group of all-stars including Musical Director John Beasley, Theo Croker, Deborah Joy Winans, James Genus, Jimmy Heath and Ledisi. They were joined onstage by past Competition winners and finalists Ambrose Akinmusire, Melissa Aldana, Kris Bowers, Roberta Gambarini, Jazzmeia Horn, Linda Oh and Jamison Ross, all of whom have become leading names on the international jazz scene.
First place winner Tom Oren (24), commanded the audience’s attention with his performance of “Just One Of Those Things” and “Just As Though You Were Here.” Second place winner Isaiah Thompson (21), of West Orange, New Jersey, performed “A Prayer/Good Intentions” and “The Other Originals” (both originals) and third place winner Maxime Sanchez (31), of Toulouse, France, performed “The Mothers of The Veil” and “Gone With The Wind.” They were among the 13 outstanding young pianists from around the world who competed a day earlier in the Competition Semifinals at the National Museum of Natural History’s Baird Auditorium. Bassist Rodney Whitaker and drummer Carl Allen accompanied each competitor.
The Gala began by shining a spotlight on emerging musicians. The Institute’s National Peer-to-Peer High School All-Star Jazz Sextet performed Stevie Wonder’s hit “Higher Ground” with dynamic vocalist Lisa Henry, a past Competition winner. Among the nation’s most accomplished young jazz musicians, these students train with Institute teaching artists at public performing arts high schools across the country.
The evening also showcased the Thelonious Monk Institute Ensemble performing Herbie Hancock’s “Riot.” These seven gifted musicians from around the world receive full scholarships to attend the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, the Institute’s master’s degree program at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music in Los Angeles. These students, who represent the next generation of jazz artists, study for two years with Distinguished Professors Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, and receive instruction from many other world-renowned jazz musicians, composers and educators.
Highlights of the Gala Concert included a soulful medley of Aretha Franklin tunes sung by Ledisi, Roberta Gambarini, Jazzmeia Horn and Lisa Henry in tribute to the Queen of Soul, a longtime Institute supporter.
Jazz master Jimmy Heath, now more than 90 years young, led a performance of his composition “Without Song.” And acclaimed vocalist Deborah Joy Winans and saxophone star Melissa Aldana gave a passionate rendition of “If You Believe” from Dee Dee Bridgewater’s Tony Award-winning performance in “The Wiz.”
After accepting the Maria Fisher Founder’s Award from Institute Chairman Herbie Hancock, Dee Dee Bridgewater joined Hancock and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire in a mesmerizing performance of Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue.”
Proceeds from the All-Star Gala Concert will support 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. Through its Competition and wide-ranging education programs, the Institute identifies and trains the world’s most promising young jazz musicians. All of the Institute’s education programs are provided free of charge, with a special emphasis on serving economically disadvantaged public school students and their teachers and parents.