The search is on for Australia’s leading young jazz pianists at the 2021 National Jazz Awards

Piano-photo-by Gerold-Hinzen on UnsplashA highlight of the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, one of Australia’s most significant jazz festivals, the prestigious National Jazz Awards provide encouragement, exposure and a financial boost to young musicians.

For over three decades the Awards have played a vital role in developing, showcasing and nurturing Australian talent. Many past winners and finalists have gone on to achieve both national and international acclaim.

Each year the Awards focus on a different instrument – piano, guitar, bass, saxophone, brass, drums or vocals.  In 2021, the spotlight is on young, talented pianists.

In 2020 vocalist Lauren Henderson took out first prize. Previous winners include Barney McAll (piano), Sam Anning (bass), Carl Morgan (guitar), Zac Hurren (saxophone), Phil Stack (bass), Julien Wilson (saxophone), Scott Tinkler (trumpet) and Michelle Nicolle (vocals). The piano was last featured in 2013 with Joseph O’Connor taking out the first prize.

Open to high-level pianists aged 36 or younger on or before 31 December 2021, pianists are invited to submit their application, including audio recordings of three pieces – a ballad, a blues and a piece by an Australian composer, by Tuesday 31 August.

Pianist and 1999 National Jazz Award winner Matt McMahon will serve as Chair of the judging panel and will be joined by renowned pianists ARIA Award winner Andrea Keller and ‘musician’s-musician’ Stephen Grant.

The judging panel will assess recordings submitted anonymously, with the ten highest ranked entrants invited to perform in the semi-finals at the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues in October.

Each entrant will be accompanied by an elite band and the top three will then vie for first prize in the finals. The 2021 winner will be announced at the Festival on Sunday 31 October .

The Rural City of Wangaratta Council continues its ongoing support of the Festival and in 2021 expands its commitment by sponsoring the National Jazz Awards prize pool. Prizes for the Awards are:

  • First prize – $7,000 and a recording session with Pughouse Studios (Melbourne)
  • Second prize – $4,000
  • Third prize – $2,000

Artists are encouraged to visit the website for information on the revised Award Guidelines to support and enable applicants from regions affected by Covid restrictions.

The 2021 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues runs 29 – 31 October. For more information on the awards and how to enter, visit: for details.

Image: Piano – photo by Gerold Hinzen on Unsplash