Tag Archives: American Pianists Association

Episode 14: On the Road

Episode 14: On the Road

The life of a touring musician has its up and down, it’s joys and frustrations. In this episode, pianists Helen Sung and Aaron Diehl and bassist Christian McBride discuss: Life on the Road.

Episode 13: What Comes Next for Emmet Cohen

Episode 13: What Comes Next for Emmett Cohen

After winning the 2019 American Pianists Awards, Emmet Cohen’s career is taking off! Listen to Emmet’s debut as winner at Dizzy’s Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, and hear from Mack Avenue Records President Denny Stillwell and past Awards winners Drew Petersen and Aaron Diehl on what lies ahead for Emmet.

Episode 12: Winning Time!

The journeys of five finalists in the 2019 American Pianists Awards come together for the finals of the competition in Indianapolis. Featuring: two sets of solo and trio at a jazz club; performances with Kurt Elling and the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra in a concert hall; and four $20,000 checks and one $100,000 prize given to the winner.

Episode 11: Dee Dee Bridgewater and Kurt Elling

Episode 11: Dee Dee Bridgewater & Kurt Elling

NEA Jazz Master Dee Dee Bridgewater and Grammy-winning vocalist Kurt Elling talk with Lee Clifford about singing with the American Pianists Awards finalists in a short preview of the finals on April 6. Kurt will sing a jazz standard with each finalist, and Dee Dee will serve as emcee for the live audience at Hilbert Circle Theater and the livestream worldwide.

Episode 10: Collaborating – strings attached

Every American Pianists Awards competition requires the finalists to perform in collaboration with other artists, as collaborating and accompanying others are fundamental skills for any musician to develop.

In this episode we explore the pairing of piano and string players through two such collaborations: on the classical side we talk with 2017 American Pianists Awards finalist Henry Kramer and violist Matthew Lipman, a much-lauded soloist. The pair recently released the world-premiere recording of the newly discovered Impromptu by Dmitri Shostakovich.

From the jazz world we explore how the genre-busting, Grammy-winning string group Turtle Island Quartet collaborates with renowned jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut, with whom the group is currently touring.

Episode 9: Singing with Sullivan Fortner

Episode nine of “The Journey” dives into the dynamic between singers and pianists from the perspective of 2015 American Pianists Awards winner Sullivan Fortner. We talk to Sullivan about his musical upbringing in New Orleans, explore his current approach to collaborating and hear him perform with great vocal talents including Cècile Mclorin Salvant, Dianne Reeves, Jean Baylor, José James and Paul Simon. Finally, we welcome two new contributors to the podcast: public radio reporter/host Jill Ditmire joins as co-host, and music publicist Amanda Sweet makes her debut as our field interviewer.

Sullivan Fortner explains how he started working with singers:

“It came out of church. My first musical experience was with singers. I remember hearing harmony and kind of listening to my mom and my mom’s brothers and sisters rehearse, and I’d tell them they’re singing the parts wrong. I’d say, “the alto lines go like this” and they’d say “boy, shut up,” and they’d listen back and say “yeah, that’s right.” So I always gravitated to singers because that’s what I first heard.”

Episode 8: American Pianists Awards past, present & future

In Episode 8 of The Journey, we learn about the history of the American Pianists Awards through an interview with Joel Harrison, CEO and Artistic Director of the American Pianists Association. During the episode we’ll hear excerpts from performances by Sean Chen, Spencer Myer, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kurt Ellling and the five 2019 American Pianists Awards finalists. 

Joel Harrison has been President/CEO of the American Pianists Association since 2008 and Artistic Director since 2001. He was previously a faculty member at Davidson College in North Carolina and at Mississippi State University, where he was also director of the Mississippi Piano Showcase and a Touring Artist for the Mississippi Arts Commission. He currently oversees all artistic programs, most especially the American Pianists Awards, relationships with collaborative organizations, strategic planning, staff development and oversight, Board communications, community and external relationships, fundraising, and representing the Awards to a national and international constituency.

Episode 7: Improvising with Emmet Cohen

Multifaceted American jazz pianist and composer Emmet Cohen is one of his generation’s pivotal artistic figures. Downbeat praised the “nimble touch, measured stride and warm harmonic vocabulary” he employs to communicate with other musicians and audiences at what he terms “the deepest level of humanity and individuality.” Cohen plays with the command and passion of an artist fully devoted to his medium. Leader of the “Emmet Cohen Trio,” Cohen presents jazz performance lectures through the YoungArts Foundation and Lincoln Center’s “Jazz for Young People” program. He has appeared in the Monterey, Newport, North Sea, Bern, and Edinburgh jazz festivals, among others, and at many famous music venues, including Rose Hall and the Kennedy Center. Cohen has also played in legendary international nightspots, such as Birdland, the Blue Note, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Jazzhaus Montmartre, and Ronnie Scott’s. He is Hammond B-3 organist-in-residence at Harlem’s Smoke jazz club. A Suzuki piano student at age three, Cohen holds jazz piano degrees from the Manhattan School of Music (M.M.) and the University of Miami (B.M.). He was previously a finalist in the American Pianists Awards in both 2011 and 2015, and he was also a finalist in the Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition in 2011. Cohen has performed or collaborated with Debbie Allen, Ron Carter, Jimmy Cobb, Lea DeLaria, Kurt Elling, Billy Hart, Jimmy Heath, Ali Jackson, Bill T. Jones, Brian Lynch, Christian McBride, and Herlin Riley.

Episode 6: pianist, composer and educator Dave Meder

Pianist, composer and educator Dave Meder is quickly becoming one of the prominent artists of his generation, known for a panoramic, genre-bending approach that has earned him slots in the American Pianists Awards and the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition. He has performed in some of New York’s most hallowed rooms, including several headlining stands at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, and internationally at the Tokyo Jazz Festival, Torino Jazz Festival, and others. In 2013, Meder won the esteemed Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition. His debut album, Passage (Outside In Music, 2019), is a dynamically interactive piano-trio outing boasting appearances by the generation-defining saxophonists Chris Potter and Miguel Zenón.

Meder is also a skilled composer-arranger, having earned an ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award, the FirstMusic Commission of the New York Youth Symphony, and a slot in the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop. As the Assistant Professor of Jazz Piano at the University of North Texas, he is currently the youngest instructor employed in one of the nation’s most renowned music programs.

Episode 5: Classical Music Journeys

Episode five of The Journey features conversations with 2017 American Pianists Awards winner Drew Petersen along with classical music luminaries 1985 Awards winner Frederic Chiu, Jerry Lowenthal, Ursula Oppens and the late Charlie Hamlen.

Episode 4: Blues & more with Billy Test

Billy Test has taken inspiration from Brazilian musical culture and jammed on the summer festival scene with rock legends. This Pennsylvania native and New York City resident is an award-winning pianist, composer, arranger and educator. Billy graduated summa cum laude from William Paterson University in 2011 with a dual degree in jazz and classical piano performance, winning the first concerto competition in the university’s history in 2011.

Check out Billy’s performances and interview clips here. (link to https://www.americanpianists.org/jazz/finalists/18-jazz/finalists/246-billy-test )

Episode 3: Kenny Banks Jr. brings it

American Pianists Awards finalist Kenny Banks Jr. brings the soul of gospel and the heat of Atlanta to tunes both old and new.

Raised by two parents who were also musicians, Kenny started to play the piano at age seven and has been passionately evolving his craft since. The Columbus, Ohio native moved to Atlanta in 2009 to pursue his musical career full time and joined the Theo Croker Quintet in China that same year, playing at the Peace Hotel, Jay-Z Club, The Cotton Club, and for government officials of Shanghai and Hong Kong. He has performed with Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest and with Queen Latifah in the HBO movie “Bessie.”

Episode 2: Let’s hear it for Keelan Dimick


The Journey by the American Pianists Association

Growth stories and moving music by jazz and classical pianoís next generation

World travel. Engagements with top orchestras. Headline runs at the most famous clubs. How does one become a professional pianist? This series highlights growth stories of American Pianists Awards winners and provides an early look at the five finalists for the 2019 American Pianists Awards. Catch them as their stars are launched.

Let’s hear it for #AmericanPianistsAwards finalist Keelan Dimick!

After taking first place at the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival in 2007, fifteen-year-old Keelan Dimick committed himself to a lifelong pursuit of jazz piano. Keelan has toured across the US covering seventeen states and five countries and has shared the stage with jazz luminaries, including Kobie Watkins, David Liebman, Walter Smith III, Brian Lynch, Cyrille Aimee and multi-platinum recording artist Michael Feinstein.

Recent performances include a string of national tours including a CD release Midwest tour of trumpeter Benny Benackís ìOne of a Kind,î an east coast tour with the Alex Snydman trio, and a series of duo concerts throughout South Florida with New York saxophonist Steven Frieder. In 2018, Keelan performed alongside names such as The Clayton Brothers, Sean Jones and the Benny Green Trio as a fellow artist on the esteemed Jazz Cruise in Fort Lauderdale.

Born and raised in the Midwest, Keelan started formal lessons at age thirteen and quickly began accumulating awards such as Anaheim Heritage Festivalís ìMaestro Award,î Gene Harris Jazz Festivalís ìBest Jazz Solo,î and Interlochen Arts Academyís ìOutstanding Musician.î After high school, Keelan re-located to New York City where he received his Bachelors of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music in 2013. In 2017, he completed his Masters of Music from Frost School of Music at the University of Miami in Florida.

Keelan performs regularly and teaches privately in Miami, where he currently resides.

Episode 1: Who wants to win $100,000?

The Journey by the American Pianists Association

Growth stories and moving music by jazz and classical pianoís next generation

World travel. Engagements with top orchestras. Headline runs at the most famous clubs. How does one become a professional pianist? This series highlights growth stories of American Pianists Awards winners and provides an early look at the five finalists for the 2019 American Pianists Awards. Catch them as their stars are launched.


Who wants to win $100,000? Kicking off The Journey with an introduction to the five finalists for the 2019 American Pianists Awards.

Kenny Banks Jr., Emmet Cohen, Keelan Dimick, Dave Meder and Billy Test were selected by a blind jury from a pool of nominees from the top music schools, record labels and jazz industry veterans.

They are competing for the prestigious Cole Porter Fellowship, given every four years to an American jazz pianist at the conclusion of the organization’s unique 13-month competition process.

By virtue of their selection, each of the five finalists has already won a cash prize of $20,000, exceptional performance opportunities and the publicity gained from advancing in the world’s largest jazz competition. Further, the winner of the 2019 American Pianists Awards will receive a prize valued over $100,000 including cash, two years of career assistance, a winner’s media and performance tour, a recording contract with Mack Avenue Records and other opportunities worldwide.

The Premiere Series provides the first live-juried performances of the five American Pianists Awards finalists. From September 2018 to February 2019, each finalist will be invited to Indianapolis for outreach and community events as well as an adjudicated solo and trio set at The Jazz Kitchen.

All five finalists return to Indianapolis for the Club Finals at The Jazz Kitchen on April 5, 2019 and the Gala Finals at Hilbert Circle Theatre on April 6, 2019. GrammyÆ Award-winning vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater will host the Gala Finals and each finalist will perform with the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra and GrammyÆ Award-winning vocalist Kurt Elling. The Finals will be streamed live at AmericanPianists.org and on the American Pianists Association’s Facebook page (@APApianists).