Congratulations to the 2023 National Pianist Award Winner + Finalists!

Volume 10

Isaiah J. Thompson wins the 2023 American Pianist Awards

The JAZZ HOUSE sets a new precedent with alumni claiming 3 of 5 finalist spots at the coveted American Pianists Awards

We are bursting with pride about the extraordinary accomplishments of our talented alumni Isaiah J. Thompson, who won the American Pianists Association 2023 Award for Jazz and the Cole Porter Fellowship, along with his friends and fellow alumni, Caelan Cardello and Esteban Castro, who were finalists in the competition.

Caelan Cardello, Isaiah J. Thompson and Esteban Castro, 2023 American Pianist Award Finalists

One of the most coveted prizes in the music world and the largest for American pianists, the American Pianists Awards are held every two years alternating classical and jazz, to discover the best aspiring young American pianists. The unique and innovative competitions span 13 months and provide a platform to deeply engage musical artists in a variety of creative formats and settings. As grand prize winner, Thompson will receive career support valued at more than $200,000 including a cash prize; two years of career assistance; a media and performance tour; a recording contract; an artist residency and more.

Hosted by Bill Charlap, Saturday’s competition finale culminated with Cardello, Castro and Thompson, and pianists, Paul Cornish of Los Angeles and Thomas Linger of New York City performing on the Hilbert Circle Theatre stage in Indianapolis in breathtaking duets with vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant and with the Buselli-Wallrab Jazz Orchestra.

I cannot express how grateful and blessed I feel to have been chosen to represent the American Pianists Association as their 2023 winner. I have known some of my fellow finalists since before I can even remember. Their friendship and musicianship makes the piano and the piano community just a little less intimidating because of how much integrity, humility and kindness they all generously display. Thank you APA for affirming that pianists’ sounds and identities come in all shapes and sizes, for supporting young musicians and for uplifting jazz with the esteem and nobility that this art form deserves.

As finalists of the Cole Porter Fellowship chosen from more than 1,200 nominations across the nation, Castro, Cardello and the other two finalists received cash prizes of $25,000, along with exceptional performance opportunities and global visibility. Many former winners in the APA competition have gone on to great success include Sullivan Fortner, Emmet Cohen (a former JAZZ HOUSE student and 2021 MONTCLAIR JAZZ FESTIVAL headliner), Aaron Diehl, Dan Tepfer and Aaron Parks.

Early Training at the JAZZ HOUSE

Thompson, Cardello and Castro all overlapped at the JAZZ HOUSE, starting as early as early as elementary school. Each found their “tribe” – a supportive community, inspiring curriculum, like-minded peers, caring mentors, top training by an esteemed faculty and loads of performance opportunities. JAZZ HOUSE students regularly get the opportunity to meet an extraordinary extended network of professional musicians, and world-renowned artists starting with the organization’s Artistic Director, 8-time GRAMMY Award-winning bassist, Christian McBride. Through McBride, these students got to work with such keyboard legends as the late great Chick Corea and George Duke; Monty Alexander, Kenny Barron, Eddie Palmieri, Christian Sands and many more world-class musicians who add to the rich training and experiences.

2023 American Pianist Award Isaiah J. ThompsonThe three alumni honorees’ talent was on full display early on and and they inspired their peers to work a little harder and practice a little longer. They all developed into advanced students and earned a seat in the award-winning JAZZ HOUSE Big Band, then went on to prestigious music schools and early recognition on the music scene.

Alumni have found that the JAZZ HOUSE has a life-long community. Many have come back as TAs for the JAZZ HOUSE Summer Workshop, join as arts interns, or are hired for various performances and gigs. Several graduates have come full circle, working year-round at the JAZZ HOUSE.
The legacy of the JAZZ HOUSE continues with each new student finding their path through jazz. According to Melissa Walker, the organization she started 20 years ago is beginning to see the impact of its working with more than 52,000+ students in-school and afterschool programs, with its alumni rising to greatness.

We like to say the JAZZ HOUSE is an instrument for change, and that really holds true with our students whether they go into music, or become leaders in their communities or careers. We are so proud of our alumni that have come through the program, and are making their mark on and off the stage. I was beyond thrilled to attend the APA finals in Indianapolis along with our VP of Jazz Education, Ted Chubb and represent the entire community of the JAZZ HOUSE. Bravo Esteban and Caelan for your exciting journey. And I am so proud of Isaiah, and the man and the musician he has become!"

To think all three of these incredible young artists came through the JAZZ HOUSE is both astounding and reaffirming. We know this is a special place where like-minded young people come together and see their talents flourish. Each of these individuals possesses all of what the JAZZ HOUSE seeks to instill in our students -- artistry, creativity, empathy, and citizenship. We are so excited to see amazing careers unfold for Caelan, Esteban, and Isaiah, but also what is in store for our current students and recent alumni who aspire to the heights of musicianship that these three represent.

EXTRA! EXTRA!

by Alex Laurenzi, Alumni Relations Liaison

AN INSTRUMENT FOR CAREER DEVELOPMENT​

Instrument for career development - mentorship with Norah Jones at the 2022 Ralph Pucci Jazz Set

During a masterclass, I remember our Artistic Director Christian McBride said, “JAZZ HOUSE KiDS is meant for teaching young individuals how to become good citizens and people.” I started to understand the importance of having the right people guide students in the right direction. This is ultimately what led me to pursue a career in higher education administration.”

JAZZ HOUSE Montclair Alumn Albert Kuo, M.S.Ed candidate at the University of Pennsylvania

FACT: Schools that produce the highest academic achievement in the US today are spending 20% to 30% of the day on the arts, with emphasis on music.

Source: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement

JOHNATHAN BLAKE

Johnathan Blake, one of the most accomplished drummers of his generation, has also proven himself a complete and endlessly versatile musician. Blake’s gift for composition and band leading reflects years of live and studio experience across the aesthetic spectrum. DownBeat once wrote, “It’s a testament to Blake’s abilities that he makes his presence felt in any context.” A frequent presence on Blue Note records over the past several years, Blake has contributed his strong, limber pulse and airy precision to multiple leader releases from Blue Note artists including Dr. Lonnie Smith’s Breathe (2021), All in My Mind (2018) and Evolution (2016) and Kenny Barron’s Concentric Circles (2018), the latter whose trio Blake has been a vital member for nearly 15 years.

Born in Philadelphia in 1976, Blake is the son of renowned jazz violinist John Blake, Jr. —himself a stylistic chameleon and an important ongoing influence. After beginning on drums at age 10, Johnathan gained his first performing experience with the Lovett Hines Youth Ensemble, led by the renowned Philly jazz educator. It was during this period, at Hines’s urging, that Blake began to compose his own music. Later he worked with saxophonist Robert Landham in a youth jazz ensemble at Settlement Music School. Blake graduated from George Washington High School and went on to attend the highly respected jazz program at William Paterson University, where he studied with Rufus Reid, John Riley, Steve Wilson and Horace Arnold. At this time Blake also began working professionally with the Oliver Lake Big Band, Roy Hargrove and David Sanchez. In 2006 he was recognized with an ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award, and in 2007 he earned his Masters from Rutgers University, focusing on composition. He studied with the likes of Ralph Bowen, Conrad Herwig and Stanley Cowell.

Deeply aware of Philadelphia’s role as a historical nerve center of American music, Blake has immersed himself in the city’s storied legacy — not just jazz but also soul, R&B and hip-hop. In many ways he’s an heir to Philadelphia drum masters such as Philly Joe Jones, Bobby Durham, Mickey Roker and Edgar Bateman, not to mention younger mentors including Byron Landham, Leon Jordan and Ralph Peterson, Jr..Johnathan Blake’s debut release on Blue Note Records signals shifting tides for a career that’s yet to crest.The drummer, composer, and progressive bandleader continually refines and renews an expression bonded to the lineage of Black music that fluoresces across Homeward Bound. Warmth of phrasing abounds as Blake layers a sound that’s at once relaxed and urgent. Alongside an innate ride cymbal, his melodic treatment of the drum kit reflects a generations old understanding of the instrument and allows his compositions to engage the myriad artists who bring them life. Homeward Bound features Blake’s band Pentad, a quintet of musicians whose expressions inhabit that mystery of time and space. Pentad’s core trio is composed of longtime collaborator and friend Dezron Douglas whose strong yet reflexive bass presence saturates each track, and acclaimed Cuban-born keyboardist David Virelles on piano, Rhodes and Minimoog. Blake’s Blue Note label mates ImmanuelWilkins and Joel Ross complete the multigenerational quintet on alto saxophone and vibraphone. Though distinct in their expressions, the rising star artists share a cooperative quality intrinsic to their improvising.

Jazz at One: Esteban Castro Trio

Jazz at One features ESTEBAN CASTRO TRIO at St. Paul’s Chapel.

LINDA MAY HAN HO

Originally born in Malaysia and raised in Boorloo (Perth), Western Australia, Linda May Han Ho has received many awards including a 2022 Deutscher Jazz Preis, 2nd place at the BASS2010 Competition, a semi-finalist at the BMW Bass competition and an honorary mention at the 2009 Thelonious Monk Bass Competition. She was voted the 2018-2021 Bassist of the Year by the Jazz Journalist’s Association, as well 2022 Bassist of the Year in Jazztimes. Linda also was voted 2019 Bassist of the Year in Hothouse Magazine and was the 2020 recipient APRA award for Best New Jazz Work. In 2023 she received the prestigious Herb Albert Award for music.

Linda has had five releases as a leader which have received critical acclaim, her latest – a quintet album entitled The Glass Hours on Biophilia Records. Her latest commissions include “Littoral Tales” a solo piano piece in two movements for Gloria Cheng, and “Ephemeral Echoes” written for percussion trio and piano trio as well as “Mirrors and Shadows” written for piano and bass duo.

Linda has written for large and small ensembles as well as for film, participating in the Sundance Labs at Skywalker Ranch and composing for several of sociologist/film maker Sabrina McCormick. Linda also composed and produced music for a collaborative film project with non-profit, “Hoperaisers” based in Korogocho, Kenya by film-maker Kizito Gamba and contributed music to his latest documentary “Calling the Shots” co-directed by Kore Abong about aspiring African women in the film-industry.

Linda is currently Associate Professor at the Berklee College of Music in the bass department and is also part of the Institute for Jazz and Gender Justice led by Terri Lyne Carrington. Linda was featured on bass in the 2020 Pixar movie “Soul” under the musical direction of Jon Batiste (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert) alongside drummer Roy Haynes and was the model for the character in the film – bassist “Miho.”

“her innovative range and stellar improvisations have made [her] one of the most dynamic rising stars in jazz today.” The Wall Street Journal

“A major bass voice arrives” – JazzTimes

“On Walk Against Wind…[Oh] takes a long stride forward as a bandleader and composer. The writing is intricate but flowing, tailored to the articulate grace of her band.” – WBGO Take Five

“Engrossing, shapeshifting… [her] vibrant tone, close control and confident attack immediately established why she is such an in-demand performer.” The Financial Times

“One of the most fluid and instinctive bass players in New York City.” – SomethingElse Reviews

JAZZ AT ONE

St. Paul’s Chapel • In-person
Free; reservations not required

As part of Trinity Church Wall Street’s growing commitment to jazz, a uniquely American art form and an important, uniting voice for our collective story and experience, Trinity Commons hosts a weekly lunchtime music series, JAZZ AT ONE,  coordinated by our very own TED CHUBB.

JAZZ HOUSE KiDS offer students a wide range of creative programming with internationally renowned jazz performers teaching alongside staff. Through music, mentoring, education, and apprenticeship, JAZZ HOUSE KiDS cultivates tomorrow’s global citizens so they may build vibrant communities.

JAZZ AT ONE: CAELAN CARDELLO

Jazz at One features CAELAN CARDELLO at St. Paul’s Chapel.

ABOUT CAELAN CARDELLO

Born and raised in Teaneck, NJ, Caelan Cardello has been playing piano since the age of 5. He grew up studying jazz and classical separately, and was performing professionally by the age of 16. He attended JAZZ HOUSE KiDS for 7 years, and was given opportunities to learn from the greatest jazz mentors and play on stages like Dizzy’s Club, The Jazz Standard, and the MONTCLAIR JAZZ FESTIVAL. Caelan has performed with CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE, Joe Farnsworth, Jimmy Cobb, Cecile McLorin Salvant and Rufus Reid, to name a few. He was selected as one of 5 finalists in the prestigious 2023 American Pianists Association Jazz competition. Caelan graduated from William Paterson University with a bachelors in Jazz Performance in 2022 and now is getting his masters degree at the Juilliard School. He regularly plays in NYC leading his own bands or as a sideman, and tours around the country frequently.

JAZZ AT ONE

St. Paul’s Chapel • In-person Free; reservations not required As part of Trinity Church Wall Street’s growing commitment to jazz, a uniquely American art form and an important, uniting voice for our collective story and experience, Trinity Commons hosts a weekly lunchtime music series, JAZZ AT ONE,  coordinated by our very own TED CHUBB. JAZZ HOUSE KiDS offer students a wide range of creative programming with internationally renowned jazz performers teaching alongside staff. Through music, mentoring, education, and apprenticeship, JAZZ HOUSE KiDS cultivates tomorrow’s global citizens so they may build vibrant communities.

ABOUT CAELAN CARDELLO

Born and raised in Teaneck, NJ, Caelan Cardello has been playing piano since the age of 5. He grew up studying jazz and classical separately, and was performing professionally by the age of 16. He attended JAZZ HOUSE KiDS for 7 years, and was given opportunities to learn from the greatest jazz mentors and play on stages like Dizzy’s Club, The Jazz Standard, and the MONTCLAIR JAZZ FESTIVAL. Caelan has performed with CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE, Joe Farnsworth, Jimmy Cobb, Cecile McLorin Salvant and Rufus Reid, to name a few. He was selected as one of 5 finalists in the prestigious 2023 American Pianists Association Jazz competition. Caelan graduated from William Paterson University with a bachelors in Jazz Performance in 2022 and now is getting his masters degree at the Juilliard School. He regularly plays in NYC leading his own bands or as a sideman, and tours around the country frequently.

Originally from West Orange, New Jersey, the pianist, bandleader and composer began studying at The Calderone School of Music from an early age. Soon after, Isaiah continued his studies with Jazz House Kids and NJPAC Jazz For Teens and was later admitted to The Juilliard School graduating with both his Bachelor’s in 2019 and Master’s of Music degrees in 2020.

Isaiah has performed with major artists, including Ron Carter, John Pizzarelli, Christian McBride, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Steve Turre and Buster Williams. His recording debut was featured on Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Blue Engine Records’ Handful of Keys album with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, and he has since released multiple recordings as a leader.

He worked on the Golden Globe nominated soundtrack for Motherless Brooklyn, was named a Steinway Artist and has been awarded other accolades including, the 2018 Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award, and second place in the 2018 Thelonious Monk Competition. As a performer, Isaiah tries to emit love, spirit and respect and convey his personal experiences through his artistry and his everlasting love of jazz.

WE THANK YOU

Major support for our programs is provided by Amazon; Appaloosa Management Charitable Foundation, Inc.; BDP Holdings, LLC; John J. & Rose Cali Family Foundation; Leslie + Ted Dixon; Gia Maione Prima Foundation; Susan + Chris Gifford; Kenneth Goldman Donor Foundation; Kopf Foundation, Manhattan Mechanical Contractors, Inc.; Montclair Center BID; National Endowment for the Arts; New Jersey Arts and Cultural Renewal Fund; New Jersey State Council on the Arts; Ralph Pucci International; Regan Family Foundation; Janet Shapiro + Phillip Byrd; Sovos Brands; TD Charitable Foundation; Trinity Church Wall Street; Victoria Foundation; We Are All Music Foundation and our other many other generous donors.