Special to HNN Provided by Marshall University
Top jazz pianists chosen for Ellis Marsalis International Piano Competition
Photo Ellis Marsalis.com site

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Seven of the world’s best jazz piano players have been selected as finalists in the Ellis Marsalis International Piano Competition and will compete for top prize Friday and Saturday, June 22-23, in downtown Huntington. The competition will take place at Missio Dei Church on the upper level of Pullman Square and is free and open to the public.


The finalists in the jazz piano competition include Joshua Espinoza of Baltimore; Dave Meder of Tampa, Florida; Ben Paterson of Philadelphia; Oscar Rossignoli of San Pedro Sula, Honduras; Arcoiris Sandoval of Tucson, Arizona; Isaiah Thompson of West Orange, New Jersey; and Rina Yamazaki of Saitama, Japan.


Named for NEA Jazz Master, educator and patriarch of “America’s First Family of Jazz” Ellis Marsalis, the competition will take place in conjunction with the inaugural Huntington International Jazz Festival June 19-23. Marshall University is hosting the event in partnership with Nu Jazz Agency in New York City, having been selected because of the commitment that the university’s School of Music has made to jazz education.


Along with featuring the international piano competition, the Huntington International Jazz Festival will feature five days of celebrating jazz through free concerts with world-renowned jazz performers, including Ellis Marsalis and sons, Arturo O’Farrill and sons and Jon Batiste of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The festival also will feature a jazz photo exhibits, a street fair and more.


The competition includes four segments, the first two which will be from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, June 22, at Missio Dei Church in Pullman Square and the last two segments, which will be from 6 to 8:45 p.m. Saturday, June 23, at the same location. The competition is designed to challenge competitors’ skills across different genres, styles and formats of the jazz idiom. The judges will include Ellis Marsalis, who is an NEA Jazz Master, as well as Arturo O’Farrill, who is a six-time Grammy and Latin Grammy Award-winner, Jon Batiste of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and special guest judge Branford Marsalis, also an NEA Jazz Master.

Top jazz pianists chosen for Ellis Marsalis International Piano Competition


The competition will be streamed on the Huntington International Jazz Festival's Facebook Page at  www.facebook.com/huntingtonjazzfest.


The seven finalists were chosen from among 160 entries and 45 semifinalists. They’re vying for over $200,000 in cash and prizes. Judges will award first, second and third place and two special merit awards for Best Rendition of an Ellis Marsalis Song and Best Original Composition.


“It is really exciting to see the kind of young talent that rose to the top in the preliminary judging for the Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition,” said Donald Van Horn, dean of Marshall’s College of Arts and Media. “We had 13 countries represented in the initial pool of pianists, and I understand that the competition was at a very high level, so we know that the finalists who are coming to Huntington are very gifted musicians.”


The finalists will be paired with some of the jazz industry’s top side personnel. Team 1 features Dezron Douglas (acoustic bass) from Hartford, Connecticut and Dayeon Seok (drums) from South Korea. Team 2 features Mimi Jones (acoustic bass) from New York and Jerome Jennings (drums) from Cleveland. Additionally, special guest Camille Thurman (tenor saxophone/vocals) will appear in a special PLUS One segment in which competitors must accompany her as both instrumentalist and vocalist on songs to be randomly selected from a pre-approved list.


The first place winner will receive a $25,000 cash prize; a record contract with ELM Records; and management, marketing, booking, and promotions assistance from Nu Jazz Agency. First prize also includes guaranteed performance opportunities at venues and festivals around the world, including a night at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola  in New, York; SOUTH Jazz Bistro in Philadelphia; the San Jose Jazz Festival in California; Le Duc des Lombards  in Paris; and the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in New Orleans. Second- and third-place winners will receive $10,000 and $5,000 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” Ellis Marsalis said. “With entries from France, Russia, the Netherlands, Canada, the U.S., Brazil, Japan, England, Germany, Chile, Italy and countless other countries, it is proving that jazz truly is an international language.”


“The dizzying array of talent that we had, proved to be a tough job for the preliminary 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 finalists are all winners already. But when all is said and done, only one can walk away with the top honor. Whoever wins will truly be worthy of the prize, but they will have to have earned it.” 

Top jazz pianists chosen for Ellis Marsalis International Piano Competition


The Huntington International Jazz Festival kicks off Tuesday with photo exhibits at the Huntington Museum of Art and Visual Arts Center, and continues throughout the week with free concerts featuring legendary jazz music and artists, and a Saturday street fair. The street fair will include food vendors, artisans, inflatables, face-painting, arts and crafts for children, a canned food drive to benefit the Facing Hunger Food Bank and of course special performances.


The full schedule is as follows:




Dolores Marsalis: The Mother of Jazz

This photographic exhibit pays tribute to Dolores Marsalis, matriarch of the Marsalis family, in a special selection of never-before-seen family photos. Located in the Charles W. and Norma C. Carroll Gallery at the Marshall University School of Art and Design in the Visual Arts Center, 927 3rd Ave., Huntington.


TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2018

7–8 p.m. • What Is Jazz and What To Expect at the Huntington International Jazz Festival! • Huntington Museum of Art, 2033 McCoy Road, Huntington.

Jazz at Lincoln Center Education Director Seton Hawkins will discuss jazz and what to expect during the inaugural Huntington International Jazz Festival and the Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition.


8–9 p.m. • Hot Can Be Cool: Jazz Portraits by Herman Leonard • Huntington Museum of Art

The Huntington Museum of Art hosts this exhibition and interactive presentation featuring works of legendary jazz photographer Herman Leonard.



7–8:30 p.m. • The Spiritual Side of Jazz: Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music • Trinity Episcopal Church, 520 11th St., Huntington

A select group of the region’s top jazz performers recreate parts of the Duke Ellington’s original Sacred Music works.



5:30–6:30 p.m. • Basses Loaded: The Life and Times of Milt “The Judge” Hinton • Marshall University Visual Arts Center, 927 3rd Ave., Huntington

Jeremy A. Smith, curator of the James and Susan Neumann Jazz Collection at Oberlin Conservatory, takes us inside the collection and life of the legendary jazz bass player and photographer Milt “The Judge” Hinton.


7–8 p.m. • Midsummer Night’s Swing with the Marshall University Jazz Ensemble featuring NEA Jazz Master Jason Marsalis • Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rdAvenue, Huntington

This midsummer night’s concert opens the Huntington International Jazz Festival’s activities and previews the weekend’s events.


FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 2018

4–4:45 p.m. • Introducing Jazz-MU-Tazz • Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rdAvenue

Marshall University’s summer jazz camp students perform in select groups during the inaugural Huntington International Jazz Festival.


5:30–6:30 p.m. • The Bob Thompson Group • Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rdAvenue

West Virginia’s very own jazz legend Bob Thompson and his all-star jazz group perform.



6:30–9 p.m. • The Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition (First and Second Segments) •  Missio Dei Church, Upper level of Pullman Square, 10thStreet and 3rd Avenue

The inaugural Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition begins.


9:15–10:15 p.m. • The Marsalis Family Quintet • Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rd Avenue

NEA jazz Masters Ellis, Jason, Branford and Delfeayo Marsalis perform during the headline event with special guests.



10 a.m.–2 p.m. • Jazz-A-Can Food Drive Collection • Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rd Avenue

Bring canned goods to the Huntington International Jazz Festival’s collection center and help feed the community’s less fortunate.


10 a.m.–10 p.m. • Huntington International Jazz Festival Street Fair • 3rd Avenue, between 9th and 10th streets. Come downtown to enjoy food, family activities and music.


1–2 p.m. • Jazz Music Helps Autism Activity Event • Marshall University Visual Arts Center, 927 3rd Ave., Huntington

Individuals on the autism spectrum can join in the fun in an area designed for them to enjoy jazz music and activities.


3–3:45 p.m. • A Jazzy Kids’ Concert •Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rdAvenue

Kids will enjoy this concert that pairs children’s favorite tunes performed by a live jazz group in sing-a-long fashion.


4–4:45 p.m. • The Marshall University All-Stars • Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rd Avenue

The Marshall University All-Stars perform some of the most popular jazz tunes.


5–5:45 p.m. • Arturo O’Farrill and the O’Farrill Family Quartet • Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rd Avenue

Five-time Latin Grammy and Grammy Award Winner Arturo O’Farrill performs with sons Adam and Zack as the “First Family of Jazz” meets the “First Family of Afro Cuban Jazz.”


6–8:45 p.m. • The Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition (Third and Fourth Segments) • Missio Dei Church, Upper level of Pullman Square, 10thStreet and 3rd Avenue

The inaugural Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition completes its final rounds.


8:30–9:30 p.m. • The Jon Batiste Trio • Pullman Square, 10th Street and 3rdAvenue

New Orleans native Jon Batiste from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert brings his funky trio to help celebrate the inaugural edition of the Huntington International Jazz Festival.


For more information on the Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition, visit: www.marshall.edu/music/jazz or www.jazzcompetition.org.