Jazz pianists converge on Pensacola for national contest
The Jazz Piano Competition, presented for eight years by the University of West Florida (UWF), takes place annually in the Pensacola Saenger Theatre and attracts talented musicians from across the nation. Made possible by financial support from Phil Phillips Jr., in honor of his parents Kathleen and Philip, the competition awards participants with a variety of cash prizes and allows them to add a reputable victory to their portfolio. This year's competition was April 13.
The Jazz Piano Competition, presented for eight years by the University of West Florida (UWF), takes place annually in the Pensacola Saenger Theatre and attracts talented musicians from across the nation. Made possible by financial support from Phil Phillips Jr., in honor of his parents Kathleen and Philip, the competition awards participants with a variety of cash prizes and allows them to add a reputable victory to their portfolio. This year’s competition was April 13.
“There are not many national jazz competitions in the country,” said Lynne Lauderdale, associate professor of music at UWF. “This is one of maybe four or five, so we attract a very select group of pianists.”
Since its inception, the competition has received a steady increase of submissions, attributed to the growing popularity of the contest and jazz itself.
From the submissions, a panel of judges must choose five to participate in the competition. In the past, students have come from schools such as The Julliard School in New York and Rutgers State University in New Jersey, as well as cities such as Miami, Memphis and Denver.
“It’s excellent that this program not only provides a competitive, creative outlet for these artists, but also shows the community that we support music and jazz,” said Lauderdale.
The competition is recognized at Pensacola events such as Festival on the Green and the Jazz Festival, where the winner plays in the days immediately following the contest.
“It’s wonderful to get these highly qualified musicians from all over and expose them to Pensacola,” said Peggy Willers, who works in the UWF music department and helps coordinate the event.
The first place winner receives $5,000 and is placed on the panel of judges for the following year. Second place wins $3,000, third place wins $1,500 and fourth and fifth place win $250 each. The audience also has the option of voting for a favorite, who wins an additional $250.
The winners from 2012 are Angelo Versace from the University of Miami in Miami, Fla., who won first place; Oscar Rossignoli from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., who won second place and audience favorite, and Samuel Garner from the University of Texas in Arlington, Texas, who won third place. Honorable mentions include Addison Frei from the University of North Texas in Denton and David Meder from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla.
“This has truly become a national event, attracting some of the finest young jazz pianists from across the country,” said Kyle Marrero, vice president of University Advancement at UWF. “I would like to extend a special thanks to Philip Phillips, Jr., whose generosity has made this possible. We are grateful that he has sponsored the competition as a way to honor his parents and bring jazz piano to the Pensacola community.”