The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz annual Jazz Vocal Competition gets underway this weekend in Hollywood Nov. 14-15, featuring performances by rising stars on the international jazz scene and established artists Patti Austin, George Benson, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Terri Lyne Carrington, Freddy Cole, Dave Grusin, Jimmy Heath, Paul Jackson, Jr., Al Jarreau, Hubert Laws, Gretchen Parlato, Arturo Sandoval, Wayne Shorter, Luciana Souza, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Ben Williams and others.
The Semifinals competition will be held on Saturday, November 14 from 12 to 5 p.m. at Schoenberg Hall on the UCLA campus.
Each semifinalist will perform for 15 minutes, accompanied by pianist Reginald Thomas, bassist Rodney Whitaker and drummer Carl Allen.
Three finalists will be selected to participate in the Competition Finals on Sunday, November 15 at 7 p.m. at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. They will vie for scholarships and prizes totaling more than $100,000 including a $25,000 first place scholarship and a guaranteed recording contract with Concord Music Group.
The All-Star Gala Concert follows on Sunday, November 15. Legendary producer, composer, bandleader and humanitarian Quincy Jones, a 27-time Grammy Award winner, will receive the Institute’s 2015 Herbie Hancock Humanitarian Award.
Herbie Hancock, Seth MacFarlane, Andy Garcia, Jeff Goldblum and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will host the event with aforementioned artists performing, and John Beasley will serve as the evening’s musical director.
Each year, the Competition features a different musical instrument, and major scholarships and prizes are awarded to talented young musicians. For 28 years, the competition has launched the careers of a number of major jazz artists including saxophonist Joshua Redman; vocalists Cécile McLorin Salvant, Jane Monheit and Gretchen Parlato; pianist Marcus Roberts; bassist Ben Williams; and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. These artists and dozens of others from past competitions have forged successful careers as performing and recording artists, as well as music educators to help perpetuate America’s legacy of jazz.
Proceeds will support the Institute’s public school jazz education programs across the U.S. and around the globe. All of the Institute’s education programs are provided free of charge to students, schools and communities worldwide.
This year’s Semifinalists are:
- Liam Burrows of Sydney, Australia has been studying jazz vocals since age 12. A graduate of Sydney’s Chatswood High School, he has appeared at major jazz festivals and venues in Australia and abroad, including the Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, Manly Jazz Festival in Sydney and Montreux Jazz Festival. Burrows has been recognized numerous times as a rising young Australian talent, most recently in 2015 with the prestigious Generations in Jazz Vocal Scholarship. He plays trumpet and piano, and is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Music in Contemporary Performance degree at the Australian Institute of Music in Sydney.
- Christie Dashiell of Washington, D.C. and Greenville, North Carolina, is a graduate of Howard University and the Manhattan School of Music. As a member of Afro-Blue, Howard’s premier vocal jazz ensemble, Dashiell appeared on NBC’s “The Sing Off.” She has twice received recognition in DownBeat Magazine’s Student Music Awards as Outstanding Soloist and Best Vocalist in the Graduate College division. Dashiell tours with her own quartet, and has performed with Nancy Wilson, Geri Allen, Smokey Robinson, Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hammond. She has appeared at the Atlanta Jazz Festival, Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival, DC Jazz Festival and Winter Jazzfest in New York City.
- Jazzmeia Horn of Dallas, Texas studied at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. Since then, she has appeared at top venues throughout New York City, including the Blue Note, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Smalls, the Jazz Standard, Minton’s Playhouse and the Kitano. Horn’s performance credits include appearances with Junior Mance, Ellis Marsalis, Peter Bernstein, Frank Wess and Delfeayo Marsalis. A first place winner of the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition, Horn is also an active educator, working regularly as a teaching artist with the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
- Sirintip Phasuk of Bangkok, Thailand and Stockholm, Sweden, has studied and performed on three different continents. Classically trained on piano, violin and double bass, Phasuk completed her undergraduate degree at the prestigious Royal College of Music in Stockholm, while also singing at numerous local venues. The recipient of two “up-and-coming young musician of the year” awards in 2015 from Brooklyn Brewery Sweden and the Swedish Musicians’ Union, Phasuk recently began pursuing a graduate degree at the Manhattan School of Music under vocalist Gretchen Parlato. Her debut self-produced EP is titled Ashes of Gold.
- Walter Ricci of Naples, Italy has been captivated by jazz and its many styles since he began hearing vocal giants like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald at age 8. He launched his professional career at 14 with gigs in prominent Italian clubs. In 2006, Ricci was awarded the Premio Nazionale Massimo Urbani in recognition of his burgeoning talent. He later toured with saxophonist Stefano Di Battista to France, Spain and Switzerland. Ricci has performed in festivals across Italy and at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York. Ricci has collaborated with Mario Biondi, Jerry Weldon, Emmet Cohen and Gregory Hutchinson.
- Lena Seikaly of Mclean, Virginia, began classical training on the piano at age 4, added vocal studies in her teens, and received her bachelor’s degree in classical vocal performance from the University of Maryland School of Music. Seikaly has participated in the prestigious Betty Carter Jazz Ahead and Jazz Aspen Snowmass residency programs. She has appeared at venues across the Washington, D.C. area, including Blues Alley, the Kennedy Center, and the Music Center at Strathmore. Seikaly has performed with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, U.S. Army Blues and Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra. She is an active educator and has led vocal workshops since 2010.
- Vuyolwethu Sotashe has studied and performed in the jazz idiom for the past six years. Born in Mthatha, South Africa and raised in nearby Butterworth, Sotashe is deeply influenced by the musical traditions of the indigenous Xhosa people in his native country and is conversant on the kalimba, mrhube and many other percussion instruments. Sotashe holds degrees in jazz studies from the University of Cape Town and William Paterson University, the latter of which he attended on a Fulbright Scholarship. He received second prize in the 2015 Shure Montreux Jazz Festival Voice Competition and first prize in the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival Vocal Competition. Sotashe has performed with Josh Groban, George Benson, Israel Houghton and Winard Harper.
- Veronica Swift grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia and has been performing since age 9. The daughter of musical parents, she has performed with Jon Hendricks, Paquito D’Rivera, Danilo Pérez and Annie Ross, and appeared at the Jazz Standard, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Blue Note and Washington, D.C.’s Blues Alley. Swift was selected for the 2011 class of the Telluride Student All-Stars Jazz Ensemble and the 2012 GRAMMY Camp Jazz Choir. She has appeared on albums by the Young Razzcals Jazz Project and the Aaron Johnson Orchestra, in addition to three self-released records. Swift attends the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music on a full scholarship, and is pursuing a degree in jazz vocals and studio music.
- Katie Thiroux of Los Angeles was gigging regularly while still in high school. A student of voice as well as the double bass since her pre-teenage years, she received the Phil Ramone Presidential Scholarship to the Berklee College of Music, where she worked with Branford Marsalis, Greg Osby, Billy Taylor and Terri Lyne Carrington, among others. Thiroux went on to earn her master’s degree in jazz studies from California State University, Long Beach in 2012. She has performed at jazz festivals in the United States, Mexico, Germany, Finland, Serbia and Singapore, and can be heard regularly with several groups, including her own quartet, the Larry Fuller Trio and the Mikan Zlatkovich Trio.
- Danielle Wertz of Falls Church, Virginia has had a passion for jazz since age 13, when she began singing with the community-based Annandale Jazz Ambassadors. Wertz is a winner of the 2012 Washington Women in Jazz Festival Young Artist Competition and received a 2015 DownBeat Student Music Award for Outstanding Performance in the Vocal Jazz Soloist category. She has performed with a wide range of artists including Gretchen Parlato, Bruce Hornsby and Karrin Allyson. Wertz studies at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, where she is pursuing a degree in Jazz Vocal Performance.
- Lucy Yeghiazaryan first learned to sing while growing up in Armavir, Armenia. Since immigrating with her family to the United States, Yeghiazaryan, who is also a classically-trained violinist, has become a prolific contributor to the New York and New Jersey music scene. As a student, she received intensive instruction through the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Jazz for Teens program and began singing with her two sisters in the YY Sisters trio, which performs jazz-infused readings of classical Armenian songs. Yeghiazaryan performs as a violinist with the Soundsketch septet and has appeared at Le Poisson Rouge and the Hudson Valley Jazz Festival.