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Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Piano Competition and Gala


BACK By: Lynda Payton                                     Washington, DC

    MORE GALA PHOTOS                                    September 11 -12, 2011



The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Celebrated Its 25th Anniversary with an International Jazz Piano Competition and Gala Concert on September 11th and 12th 2011. Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition and an All-Star Gala Concert was held in Washington, DC. A series of events and performances honored the history of Institute and its impact on jazz education with Thelonious Monk Jr., being onhand representing his father's legacy. 
                                                                                         Thelonious Monk Jr. 
Established in 1987, this is the world’s most prestigious jazz competition, recognize for discovering the next generation of jazz masters. Dozens of semifinalists have forged successful careers as jazz performers and educators. The winner is guaranteed a recording contract with Concord Music Group.  The competition focuses on a different instrument each year and features an all-star judging panel. This year the piano was the instrument of focus. Twelve semifinalists from around the world competed and the three finalists were selected and announced at the end of the of the program. This year’s panel of judges included Herbie Hancock, Elis Marsalis, Jason Moran, Danilo Perez and Renee Rosnes. The three finalists performed during the gala concert and the winner of the competition was announced after the final performance.
Herbie Hancock
There were lots of prestigious personalities that graced the stage at the 25th Anniversary of the Theloneous Monk Institute of Jazz. Among them were Colin L. Powell and Madeleine K. Albright, co-chairs of the institute's anniversary year; former competitors, not all of them winners; Mr. Hancock and Wayne Shorter, who played a duet; the "Academy Award and Grammy Award" winning star Jennifer Hudson,  was the special guest. Jennifer appeared on her birthday to sing "Oh Me Oh My (I'm A Fool For You Baby)," from Aretha. Franklin's record "Young, Gifted, and Black"; the rapper Doug E. Fresh; appeared with Los Angeles' DJ Spark and students from The Washington Preparatory High School located in Los Angeles, California. The students are part of the BeBop to Hip Hop program at Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.  Chaka Khan, Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kurt Elling, and Jane Monheit, who collaged together a half-dozen of Franklin hits; Joe Lovano, Kevin Eubanks, and Christian McBride lended their special talents as part of the supporting orchestra  and Ms. Franklin herself, who sang "Moody's Mood for Love," in fabulous form as always.
L-R, Saxophonist Joe Lovano,  Vocalist Dee Dee  Bridgewater,   Guartist Kevin Eubanks former band director of the Jay Leno Show, Joshua Redman and Chrisian McBride. 
I was particularly impressed by the BeBop to Hip Hop performance of Doug E. Fresh, Dj Spark and the students of Washington Preparatory H.S. BeBop to Hip-Hop is one of the most innovative public school music education programs in America. Begun in 2004 in Los Angeles, the program brings together jazz and hip-hop students under the direction of professional jazz musicians and hip-hop artists to create a new art form demonstrating the genius of both musical genres. The aspiring young artists study the musical dynamics of both jazz and hip-hop and learn about the historical influence of jazz on hip-hop.
Doug E. Fresh         DJ Sparks and performing students.
Each year, 50 students at Manual Arts High School and Washington Preparatory High School work together to compose experimental pieces combining the best of both art forms and record many of these works. Jazz and hip-hop instructors introduce the students to the latest recording technologies and software. The jazz students learn to produce more cutting-edge sounds, construct beats, and incorporate the hip-hop groove into jazz, while the hip-hop students learn how to create and record in a live environment and gain technical skills in music. All of the participants study composition, music theory, arranging, improvisation, lyric writing, turntable scratching, and sampling.
An annual culminating concert highlights the original and spontaneous work that results from this groundbreaking collaboration. Black Entertainment Television broadcast the 2005 concert as a one-hour documentary. In 2007, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the BeBop to Hip-Hop students presented community outreach concerts throughout Los Angeles, introducing thousands of residents of all ages to hip-hop and jazz.
During the past several years, the students have performed alongside jazz greats and hip-hop innovators including Terence Blanchard, DJ Spark, Doug E. Fresh, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Chris Thomas King, Supernatural, Bobby Watson, and YoYo. In 2010, the students had a recording of one of their original songs played on KKJZ, the country’s most popular jazz station with a weekly listenership of 450,000.
On Monday September 12, 2011 after the gala concert James Hunter from Cadillac Corporation, sponsor of this year event awarded the grand prize to Kris Bowers, 22, from Los Angeles. Now a New Yorker, he received $25,000 first prize and a recording contract with Concord music group.  Mr. Bowers is polished, talented and with a bright future ahead of him. When asked how he felt about winning the competition? He stated "It is like a dream. I can't believe it and very excited!  I look forward to buying the CD of music created and produced by this year’s winner and very talented artist.
Kris Bowers 2011 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Piano Grand Prize Winner 











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