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Herbie Hancock Institute Competition Spotlights Guitar This December

The Washington, D.C. contest will be judged by an all-star panel of plectrists, including Pat Metheny, John Scofield, and Russell Malone; applications due October 11

Russell Malone at the 2019 Newport Jazz Festival
Russell Malone at the 2019 Newport Jazz Festival (photo: Joseph Allen)

For more than three decades, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Competition played a pivotal role in identifying and empowering the next generation of jazz musicians, educators, and influencers. On December 2 and 3 in Washington, D.C., the contest will take place for the 30th time overall, but the first under its new name: the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz International Competition. Open to musicians age 30 and under from across the globe, this year’s competition will focus on the guitar.

The semifinals of the 2019 Guitar Competition will be held on Monday, December 2, from noon to 5:00 p.m. at the Smithsonian Institution. Semifinalists will compete before an all-star panel of judges including jazz guitarists Stanley Jordan, Russell Malone, Pat Metheny, Chico Pinheiro, Lee Ritenour, and John Scofield. Each semifinalist will perform for 15 minutes accompanied by a professional rhythm section.

From this group, the judges will select three finalists who will perform in the final round at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday evening, December 3. At stake is more than $150,000 in scholarships and prizes, including a $30,000 first-place scholarship and guaranteed recording contract with Concord Music Group; a $15,000 second-place scholarship; and a $10,000 third-place scholarship.

If you would like to be considered for the 2019 Guitar Competition, go to the Hancock Institute website for application details and further information. All materials must be submitted no later than Friday, October 11.


Fourteen years have passed since the last time that the Monk Competition was open to guitarists. In 2005, top honors went to Norway’s Lage Lund, with Miles Okazaki taking second place and David Mooney taking third place.

Institute chairman Herbie Hancock said in a statement, “We look forward to discovering and hearing from the next generation of young jazz guitarists, with their innovative styles and unique approach to the music.We are particularly excited to pay homage to the guitar, which has a rich and colorful history that continues to play a pivotal role in the development of jazz. I have no doubt that this year’s Competition will show that the future of this instrument, and of our music, is in good hands.”

Applications are also available now through December 6 for the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz’s class of 2020. The tuition-free two-year program at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music accepts one ensemble of musicians for each class. Students study both individually and as a small group, receiving personal mentoring, ensemble coaching, and lectures on the jazz tradition from some of the world’s greatest living jazz musicians.
Hancock and Wayne Shorter serve as the Institute’s Distinguished Professors. Artists-in-Residence have included Dee Dee Bridgewater, Terri Lyne Carrington, Billy Childs, Kurt Elling, Benny Golson, Barry Harris, Stefon Harris, Jimmy Heath, Christian McBride, Jason Moran, Lewis Nash, Danilo Pérez, Dianne Reeves and John Scofield, along with Improvisation Artists-in-Residence Jerry Bergonzi and Dick Oatts, among others, and former Artistic Directors Terence Blanchard and Ron Carter.
Applications for the class entering fall 2020 may be submitted to study the following instruments: trumpet, saxophone, trombone, piano, electric guitar, acoustic bass, vibraphone, violin, drums, and vocals. A master’s degree from the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music for qualified applicants and a certificate from the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Performance will be awarded upon successful completion of the program. All students receive full scholarships as well as stipends to cover their monthly living expenses.