The judges signing on for downtown Portland State University’s first annual Jazz Forward Competition know their stuff. They include award-winning, dynamic jazz vocalists (Greta Matassa, Becca Stevens), a Grammy-nominated musician (pianist Taylor Eigsti), and an iconic jazz educator (Dave Barduhn) — with more to come. The jazz students competing for the top prize in five categories will have to pass muster with them for a chance to perform live at the 12th annual Portland Jazz Festival.
In partnership with Portland State University and PDX Jazz, the first annual Jazz Forward Competition takes place February 19-21, 2015, during the festival. After the first round, voted blind by PSU Jazz Faculty members, 12 finalists will move forward for the February competition. Winners competing in the categories of vocal soloist, vocal ensemble, instrumental soloist, jazz combo, and big band will win $1,000 and a slot performing live at the jazz festival. Deadline for entries is from August 1 to midnight, December 1, 2014.
The competition is the natural result of PSU’s successful student jazz programs: the four-year Student Stage and the more current President’s Day Student Celebration, which happens at Jimmy Mak’s. Both PSU events are a staple of the festival. Origin Records recording artist and PSU Jazz Faculty member Jeff Baker put this competition together for a purpose, to extend the learning curve.
“The Pacific Northwest has a long, rich history in the jazz idiom and especially in jazz education,” Baker explained. “We are excited to join other esteemed institutions and jazz presenting organizations who have traditionally offered a compelling competition component to their festival program mix. Our ongoing history with PDX Jazz during the festival made for a natural fit. It will certainly resonate with the students as they will be exposed to world-class performers. By conceiving Jazz Forward during the annual Portland Jazz Festival, the competition will hopefully raise the awareness of PSU’s Jazz Studies program and inspire these outstanding young jazz musicians to achieve new artistic heights.”
PDX Jazz Managing Director Don Lucoff brought up some famous musicians who’ve benefitted from such outreach. “Our community has watched with pride how PSU educators and leaders, Bryan Johanson, Charlie Gray, Darrell Grant, and George Colligan, have served the music as advocates and role models for a wide array of impressive students and alumni including: Esperanza Spalding, Farnell Newton, Andrew Oliver, Mel Brown, Gordon Lee, and Nicole Glover among others. This competition is yet another collective pathway that sustains the music and leads to a greater degree of developing the next generation of jazz audience. This has been part of our mission since the first festival in 2004.”
Quotes pulled from a press release, provided by DL Media.