Marshall University, a leading institution of higher education in West Virginia, and the Nu Jazz Agency, have announced the winners of the inaugural 2018 Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition held on June 22- 23, 2018 in Huntington, WV (U.S.A.). Ben Paterson (Philadelphia, PA) wonFirst Place; Rina Yamazaki (Saitama, Japan) won Second Place & The Nu Jazz Agency’s Chico & Lupe O’Farrill Award for the Best Original Composition; Isaiah Thompson (West Orange, NJ) won Third Place & the award for Best Rendition of an Ellis Marsalis Song.
International Jazz Piano Competition & Finalists
The Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition, named after NEA Jazz Master, legendary educator and patriarch of “America’s First Family of Jazz” is held triennially in the City of Huntington, West Virginia (U.S.A.) in partnership with Marshall University and the Nu Jazz Agency. The 2-day competition challenges competitors’ skills and abilities across different genres, styles, and formats of the jazz idiom. Seven finalists were chosen from among over 160 entries and 45 qualifying submissions from 13 different countries, to vie for over $200,000 in cash and prizes.
NEA Jazz Master Ellis Marsalis, six (6) time Grammy and Latin Grammy winner Arturo O'Farrill
, Jon Batiste
, and special guest judge NEA Jazz Master Branford Marsalis
watched the contestants compete with the help of two side personnel teams.
Team 1 featured Dezron Douglas
and Dayeon Seok
; Team 2 featured Mimi Jones
, and Jerome Jennings
. Additionally, Special Guest Camille Thurman
appeared in a special PLUS One segment in which competitors were required to accompany her as both instrumentalist and vocalist on songs that were randomly selected.
L to R: Isaiah Thompson, Rina Yamazaki and Ben Paterson
The seven finalists were: Isaiah J. Thompson
(West Orange, NJ); Ben Paterson
(Philadelphia, PA); Joshua Espinoza
(Baltimore, MD); Rina Yamazaki (Saitama, Japan); Dave Meder (Tampa, Florida); ArcoIris Sandoval
(Tucson, AZ); and Oscar Rossignoli
(San Pedro Sula, Honduras).
After two days, four segments, seven hours, and nine different songs in the competition the winners for the five awards were choosen via score calculations on their performances.
Ben Paterson (Philadelphia, PA) won First Place Winner; Rina Yamazaki (Saitama, Japan) and won Second Place and was the recipient of the Nu Jazz Agency’s Chico & Lupe O’Farrill Award for Best Original Composition; and Isaiah Thompson (West Orange, NJ) won Third Place as well as the award for Best Rendition of an Ellis Marsalis Song.
In addition to the awards the First Place winner receives the Grand Prize which includes: a $25,000 (USD) cash prize; a record contract with ELM Records; management, marketing, booking, and promotions assistance from Nu Jazz Agency. First Prize also includes guaranteed performance opportunities from a bevy of venues and festivals around the world, including a night at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (New, York, NY); SOUTH Jazz Bistro (Philadelphia, PA); the San Jose Jazz Festival (San Jose, CA), Le Duc des Lombards (Paris, France), and the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music (New Orleans, LA). Second Place and Third Place winners will receive $10,000 (USD) and $5,000 (USD) respectively, as well as their own series of national and international performance opportunities.
“This competition is something that I am really proud of being able to put together at this point in my career,” said NEA Jazz Master, Ellis Marsalis.
With entries from France, Russia, the Netherlands, Canada, the U.S., Brazil, Japan, England, Germany, Chile, Italy and countless other countries, we had seven male & female finalists chosen from three countries proving that Jazz truly is an international language.
The dizzying array of talent that we had, proved to be a tough job for the final judges to make decisions on," said Jerald Miller, Executive Director of the competition and Managing Director of the Nu Jazz Agency.“
In my book, the seven finalists are all winners already. But when all is said and done, only a few could walk away with the top honors. These three winners had to earn it, and they did!.”
For more information on the Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition, or interview requests, visit: jazzpianocompetition.org
or call (212) 920-1494 ext. 3. For press or media inquiries contactJean Hardiman,University Communications Specialist at Marshall University, by phone at: (304) 696-6397 or via E-mail