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Competitions

The submissions for the Montreux Jazz Competitions 2017 are now open!

Since 1967, the world’s greatest jazz pianists have graced the stages of the Montreux Jazz Festival. Their biographies tell tumultuous tales of hard work and artistic endeavor, but also of solidarity with fellow musicians and magical opportunities.

Only four prizes per competition are awarded each year. But the organizers believe that all the participants leave Montreux with the conviction that they have taken their career one step further through this culturally enriching musical experience. The large number of participants (294 candidates from 51 countries) and the success of the laureates are the best proof! The personal accompanying measures give to all the participants a unique experience.

Esteban Castro, 13 years old, wins the 2016 piano competition

Esteban Castro, 13 years old, wins the 2016 piano competition

He’s the youngest person in the history of the competitions in Montreux! Esteban Castro from America – who is only 13 years old – has won the prestigious competition this year. Yaron Herman was president of the jury. The other jurors were RTS journalist Yvan Ischer, Moods Zurich programmer Carine Zuber, and Julie du Luxembourg, member of the Montreux Jazz Artists Foundation’s board.

The standard was very high in this competition based on solidarity and improvisation. Just 15 days before the competition began, Yaron Herman decided to shake up the participants’ program by changing their set pieces without warning, forcing them out of their comfort zones.

1ST PRIZE: ESTEBAN CASTRO

Esteban Castro is a pianist and composer from the New York area. He has garnered multiple awards, such as the ASCAP Foundation’s Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award, the DownBeat Student Awards for Best Compositions and Best Soloist, and the Charles Mingus and Essentially Ellington Outstanding Soloist Awards. He has already recorded three award-winning albums that critics have described as “beaming with creative energies,” “surpassing all expectations,” and showing that, “while the pianist still might, in fact, be just a boy, he is already his own man.” He attends the Manhattan School of Music on a scholarship and performs with the Jazz House Big Band.

Second and Third Prizes went, respectively, Guy Mintus from Israel and Casimir Liberski from Brussels, Belgium.

THE THREE TOP FINISHERS WILL PARTICIPATE IN THE THIRD MONTREUX JAZZ ACADEMY FROM 3 TO 10 MARCH 2017.

Arta Jekabsone Wins The 2016 Voice Competition

Arta Jekabsone Wins The 2016 Voice Competition

Young Latvian Arta Jekabsone has won the Shure Montreux Jazz Festival Voice Competition. Angélique Kidjo was president of the jury. The other jurors were French composer and producer Jérôme Badini from Radio France, Joe Farmer, a journalist for Radio France International, Thomas Rees from magazine Jazzwise, Mike Novogratz, vice president of the Jazz Foundation of America and Wendy Oxenhorn, executive director of the Jazz Foundation of America and member of the Montreux Jazz Artists Foundation’s board.

There was a very high standard of competition in the semi-finals. It was particularly difficult to choose between the finalists in this voice competition – they really captured the public’s imagination. The final ended with a capella improvisation.

Inspired by the quote “Love what you do and do what you love” (Ray Bradbury), Arta Jekabsone, who was born in Latvia, found fulfilment in singing. She also studied violin for nine years. Last year, she graduated from the popular Riga Choir Cathedral School, where she studied jazz. She now has a scholarship at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York, where her mentors include Janet Lawson, Kate Baker, Reggie Workman, La Tanya Hall, Cecil Bridgewater and Richard Boukas.

The second prize was won by Germany’s Eric Leuthäuser and the third prize went to Fabio Giacalone from Italy.

THE THREE TOP FINISHERS WILL PARTICIPATE IN THE THIRD MONTREUX JAZZ ACADEMY THIS FALL, FROM 3 TO 10 MARCH 2017.

Finland’s Olli Hirvonen wins the 2016 guitar competition

Finland’s Olli Hirvonen wins the 2016 guitar competition

Olli Hirvonen, a young Finn based in Brooklyn, New York, has just won the famous Socar Montreux Jazz Electric Guitar Competition. The jury was presided over by John McLaughlin, and was composed of Swiss blues musician Philipp Fankhauser, local journalist Pierre-Philippe Cadert, Claudio Cappellari, the co-Director of Zurich’s prominent music venue Moods, and guitarist and member of the Montreux Jazz Festival Board, Xavier Oberson. Camaraderie abounded as this guitar competition for the 50th edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival unfolded at an extremely high level—to the point that, for the first time in the history of the jazz competitions at Montreux, the finale evolved into a powerful jam session that brought together all the competitors and several members of the jury for a closing musical ensemble.

Well-versed in every electric skillset, from jazz to rock to more experimental sounds, he has developed a unique style navigating between these genres. Hirvonen has degrees from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and the Manhattan School of Music. His young career can already boast of some impressive accolades, including Artist of the Year of the Pori Jazz Festival in 2011 and Performer of the Year 2014-2015 for the Finlandia Foundation. He has featured on numerous recordings and released his first album, Detachment, in April 2014.

Second and Third Prizes went, respectively, to 22-year-old English guitarist Rob Luft and Israel’s Tal Yahalom, also based in New York.

THE THREE TOP FINISHERS WILL PARTICIPATE IN THE THIRD MONTREUX JAZZ ACADEMY THIS FALL, FROM 3 TO 10 MARCH 2017.