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Contestants Wanted for First Ellis Marsalis Jazz Piano Competition

Up to six finalists will vie for more than $200,000 in cash and prizes during June event in West Virginia

Ellis Marsalis (photo courtesy of the artist)
Ellis Marsalis (photo courtesy of the artist)

NEA Jazz Master Ellis Marsalis, in partnership with the Nu Jazz Agency and Marshall University, is looking for pianists to take part in the inaugural run of a contest bearing his name. The Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition will be held June 22-23 on Marshall University’s campus in Huntington, W.Va., in tandem with the five-day Huntington International Jazz Festival, of which Marsalis is the artistic director.

The contest is open to any pianist over the age of 12 who has not recorded for a major or independent label. From the first round of entries, a panel of jazz pianists will select up to six finalists for the competition in Huntington, which will be divided into four segments over two days, with each segment challenging the musicianship of the contestants in a different way. Originality, creativity, technical skill and the ability to listen and react to others will be tested in realistic performance scenarios.

Four final judges—Marsalis himself, his saxophonist son Branford Marsalis and pianists Arturo O’Farrill and Jon Batiste—will award over $200,000 in cash and prizes to the first-, second- and third-place winners, along with special awards for Best Original Composition and Best Rendition of an Ellis Marsalis Song.

The deadline for entering the Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition is May 19 at 12:01 a.m. Visit the contest website for further details.


Read a vintage JazzTimes interview with Branford Marsalis.



Originally Published