Beginning in 2018 the Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition will begin creating “new stars” and discovering the “future stars” of Jazz Piano. The winner of this 2-day intensive competition will walk away with over $200,000.00 (USD) in cash and prizes and have a career building opportunity of (2) years’ worth of performance opportunities at some of the premier jazz clubs, venues, and jazz festivals in the world.
The Ellis Marsalis international Jazz Piano Competition is meant to be the most comprehensive, challenging, and in-depth jazz piano competition in the world. The purpose is to challenge, test, and evaluate each competitor against well established traits which means the difference between good piano players and those who shall go on to greatness. This competition highlights the best in modern jazz piano playing, from an emerging group of musicians who lack major or independent recording recognition.
This competition is held over the course of a two (2) day period in June. It focuses on originality, performance, creativity, and ability to listen, inspire, react, and create music of the highest caliber in situations which are realistic music scenarios rather than just staged opportunities for showmanship. Highlighting the unique skill set that a piano player will need to thrive in an ever-changing and complex musical environment, this competition is a truer gauge of a competitor’s ability to make it in the 21st Century’s musical landscape than has ever existed before.
The competition is held every three years in Huntington, West Virginia on or around the campus of Marshall University. The competition has (4) four different segments over the course of the two (2) days with each segment meant to challenge the actual musicianship and capabilities of each contestant and level the playing field in order to get true insight into the strengths and weaknesses of each performer.
Segment 1 is a “Piano Trio” format where the contestants perform their own chosen selections from the “Silver Book” series ( a book of original songs by New Orleans composers), along with a the contestants choice of an approved song from the series that was composed by Ellis Marsalis.
Segment 2 is entitled the “Plus 1” portion of the competition. In this segment the competitors will perform with the original trio format from segment 1 and now include an additional “featured” guest musician or vocalist. This portion of the competition will require a ballad and a medium tempo swing song, from a preselected list of approved songs, and is designed to highlight the different type of accompaniment skills that are necessary for modern day piano players. The two songs will be randomly selected from a drawing held as the competitor is introduced on stage.
Segment 3, will be a solo piano performance segment and will be the most intense for the competitors. The “Solo Piano” portion will require competitors to perform three (3) selections of three (3) varying types: (2) Jazz standards from an approved list, one of which must be a “ballad”, and one of which must be “Afro- Cuban or Latin Jazz” medium tempo piece.
Segment 4 finds the contestants in a piano trio format again, this time performing a selection of (3) songs one of which must be an original, one a modal piece, and one a be-bop era up tempo “burner”. After a brief intermission the judges will determine the winner for the competition based upon the pre-determined criteria for judging the competition, as well as the second and third place winners.
The prize package includes over $200,000.00 (USD) in cash and performance opportunities for the contestants including a recording contract and performance opportunities at such premier venues as Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, the San Jose Jazz Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and countless other venues around the globe.