Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Competition Returns to D.C.

Annual Event Has Launched Many Award-Winning Careers

Building on the music tradition of iconic jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, 14 young jazz musicians will come to D.C. to compete in the 30th annual Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Competition.

The last time the event was in the District was in 2013. The two-day competition scheduled for Dec. 2-3, will spotlight jazz pianists 30 and younger from around the world.

The 14 young piano semifinalists will compete before an all-star panel of judges, including jazz pianists Monty Alexander, Joanne Brackeen, Cyrus Chestnut, Jason Moran, Danilo Pérez, Renee Rosnes and Herbie Hancock, who is chairman of the Institute.

The semifinalist round is free and open to the public on Dec. 2 from noon to 5 p.m. at Baird Auditorium in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Three finalists will be selected from this group and will compete in a final round on Monday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

“Finalists are vying for more than $100,000 in scholarships and prizes,” the competition organizers said. “Winnings include a $25,000 first-place scholarship and guaranteed recording contract with Concord Music Group. The second-place finalist will receive a $15,000 scholarship and the third-place finalist will receive a $10,000 scholarship.”

On Monday, following the performances by the competition finalists, there is an all-star concert with a special tribute to the late Aretha Franklin, who was an Institute supporter for more than two decades through her many performances and contributions to the organization’s jazz education programs. Also on Monday, Dee Dee Bridgewater, National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, multiple Grammy Award-winning vocalist and Tony Award-winning actress, will receive the Institute’s Maria Fisher Founder’s Award.

Proceeds from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Piano Competition and All-Star Gala Concert will help fund the Institute’s public school education programs in D.C., Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Newark, San Francisco and the Mississippi Delta.

This year’s Institute competition marks the last year the event will be under the name of Thelonious Monk. Effective Jan. 1, 2019, the Institute become the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz. Hancock has been Institute Chairman for the past 15 years.

“Having the Institute named in my honor is tremendously humbling and represents a profound moment for my family and me,” Hancock said. “I’m looking forward to continuing in my role as Institute Chairman and carrying on and expanding the organization’s important worldwide jazz education and humanitarian initiatives.”

Under the new name, the Institute will continue to offer college-level training by internationally acclaimed jazz masters and global programs that profile up-and-coming jazz talent.

The Institute’s annual jazz competition has launched the careers of several 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.

For ticket information for the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition Finals and All-Star Gala Concert on Monday, Dec. 3rd at 7:30 p.m., contact the Kennedy Center box office by calling 800-444-1324, or online at

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