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Monk Institute Piano Competition Set for Dec. 2 and 3

14 musicians will compete for $25,000 and a recording contract with Concord

Joanne Brackeen

The 2018 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Piano Competition is scheduled for Dec. 2 and 3 in Washington, D.C.

Originally, the competition was to be held in October 2017, but it was postponed for a variety of reasons, including a marked uptick in other benefit events due to natural disasters.

On the first day, at the Smithsonian Institution’s Baird Auditorium inside the National Museum of Natural History, 14 semi-finalists will perform in 15-minute blocks before a panel of judges including Monty Alexander, Joanne Brackeen, Cyrus Chestnut, Herbie Hancock, Jason Moran, Danilo Pérez, and Renee Rosnes.

The semi-finalists, who will be accompanied by Rodney Whitaker on bass and Carl Allen on drums, include Thomas Enhco of Paris, France; Steven Feifke, a native of Lexington, Mass.; Addison Frei of Lawrence, Kan.; Liya Grigoryan, born in Yerevan, Armenia and raised in Rostov-on-Don, Russia; Michael King of Chicago, Ill.; Holger Marjamaa, a native of Tallinn, Estonia; Dave Meder of Tampa, Fla.; Krisztián Oláh of Hungary; Tom Oren, born in Tel Aviv; Maxime Sanchez, a native of Toulouse, France; Jake Shapiro, from Chicago; Billy Test, a native of Philipsburg, Penn.; Isaiah J. Thompson, of West Orange, N.J.; and Xavi Torres, of Tarragona, Spain.

The judges will choose three finalists to compete on Dec. 3 at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. The winner will receive $25,000 and a guaranteed recording contract with Concord Music Group.


The competition—inaugurated in 1987 and normally held every year with a rotating instrumental focus—will also feature a gala concert honoring the late Aretha Franklin. Jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater will receive the Maria Fisher Founder’s Award.

Proceeds from the competition will help fund the institute’s public school education programs in cities like Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Newark, and San Francisco.

The previous Monk Institute competition was held in 2015 and focused on vocals; Jazzmeia Horn was the winner.

Click here to purchase tickets for this year’s event.

Originally Published