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Next Jazz Legacy Announces Inaugural Group of Awardees

New Music USA and Berklee Institute of Jazz & Gender Justice present the first edition of a three-year apprenticeship and mentorship program for women and non-binary jazz artists

Ivanna Cuesta
Ivanna Cuesta

The New Music USA organization and Berklee Institute of Jazz & Gender Justice have announced the seven women and non-binary awardees for the Next Jazz Legacy program: Ivanna Cuesta, Lexi Hamner, Keyanna Hutchinson, Alexis Lombre, Anastassiya Petrova, Loke Risberg, and Kali Vandever. Each awardee will be paired with an established artist for a performance apprenticeship and with another artist for a creative mentorship. In addition, each awardee will receive a scholarship to enroll in a Berklee Online course of their choice, as well as a $10,000 grant “to use as an investment into the next steps of their career,” according to a press release received by JazzTimes. The program received major funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

The awardees were chosen through an open call process and an extensive review process by a panel of jazz artists, chaired by Terri Lyne Carrington, artistic director of Next Jazz Legacy and founder of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, and including Cassandra Wilson, Nicole Mitchell, Ambrose Akinmusire, Sean Jones, Miguel Zenón, and more. Once the awardees were chosen, Carrington and the Next Jazz Legacy team worked with each of them to match them with established bandleaders for both a year-long performance apprenticeship and an additional creative mentorship. “The rich legacy of jazz can only get better when we are inclusive,” Carrington said in the press release. “We are at a time in history where varying communities are having to rethink their social and political positions. This generation is demanding that we open our minds and hearts to consider a future with greater distance from the customs and standards of the past. As educators and mentors, it is our job to listen to them and work together to make needed change.”

Mary Halvorson, one of the seven artists who will offer a creative apprenticeship to an awardee, acknowledged that this program marked a change from when she was coming up on the scene. “When I was getting started in the jazz and improvised music world I had very few female mentors or peers, and always wished I had more,” she said. “That’s one of many reasons I feel it’s important to support and nurture a younger generation of female and non-binary musicians and composers. I’ve always felt strongly about cross-generational collaborations as well, and about shifting the momentum to a more inclusive and diverse community overall. I’m thrilled to be a part of the Next Jazz Legacy program—a great new initiative which will help foster these relationships and keep the momentum going.”

Next Jazz Legacy awardees
Next Jazz Legacy awardees – top row (L-R): Lexi Hamner, Loke Risberg, Anastassiya Petrova; Center: Alexis Lombre; Bottom row (L-R): Keyanna Hutchinson, Ivanna Cuesta, Kalia Vandever

Here is the list of awardees along with their pairings with noted bandleaders:

Ivanna Cuesta (drums): Apprenticeship with Esperanza Spalding; creative mentorship with Wayne Shorter

Lexi Hamner (voice & trombone): Apprenticeship with Tia Fuller; creative mentorship with Bobby McFerrin

Keyanna Hutchinson (guitar): Apprenticeship with Lizz Wright; creative mentorship with Brandon Ross

Alexis Lombre (piano): Apprenticeship with Marcus Miller; creative mentorship with Georgia Anne Muldrow

Anastassiya Petrova (piano & organ): Apprenticeship with Chris Potter; creative mentorship with Kris Davis

Loke Risberg (guitar): Apprenticeship with Linda May Han Oh; creative mentorship with Bill Stewart

Kalia Vandever (trombone): Apprenticeship with Mary Halvorson; creative mentorship with Jen Shyu

Next Jazz Legacy will reopen applications to women and non-binary musicians annually throughout its three-year term. In addition, the program has revealed 16 nominees who were put forward to the final stage of the selection process by the Next Jazz Legacy panelists. Each will receive a one-on-one mentoring session with a creative professional of their choice, a cohort gathering, and promotion on the Next Jazz Legacy channels. The list of nominees includes: Adi Meyerson (bass); Ailey Verdelle (piano); Alden Hellmuth (saxophone); Alex Hamburger (voice/flute); Arcoiris Sandoval (piano); Estar Cohen (voice); Kavita Shah (voice); Liany Mateo (bass); Miki Yamanaka (piano); Minnie Jordan (violin); Naomi Nakanishi (piano); Nikara Warren (vibraphone); Sequoia Snyder Redwood (piano); Summer Kodama (bass); Yvonne Rogers (piano); and Zoh Amba (saxophone).