The ASCAP Foundation and the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra (SJO) have announced the winner of their 7th Annual Commissioning Prize. Christopher Zuar, a New York-based pianist and composer, was awarded the $5,000 prize as well as a commission to write a new work for the SJO to premiere in 2022-23. The award was created to honor the legacy of George Duke, the keyboardist and producer who was not only the SJO’s co-music director but also an ASCAP board member.
Zuar received his bachelor’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music and his master’s from the Manhattan School of Music, both in jazz composition. His works have been performed by the WDR Big Band, the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, the Westchester Jazz Orchestra, and other large ensembles. He released his debut album Musings on Sunnyside in 2016. Among the honors he’s received over the years are the ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer’s Award, the ASCAP Johnny Mandel Prize, the Airmen of Note Sammy Nestico Award, the SCI Jazz Composition Award, and the First Music Commission from the New York Youth Symphony.
The 68-member SJO was created in 2002 in order to combine both jazz and classical music through its commissioning, performing and educational programs. Led by music director Mitch Glickman, the ensemble has performed throughout southern California with guest artists including Dave Grusin, Christian McBride, Raul Midón, Lee Ritenour, the Yellowjackets, and George Duke.
For more information about the SJO, visit their website.