The Generations in Jazz 2015 scholarship finalists have been announced! Six solo instrumentalists from across Australia will be vying for the prestigious “James Morrison Jazz Scholarship” during next month’s Generations in Jazz weekend in Mount Gambier, SA, on 1-3 May 2015. The award features a $10,000 grant to assist in career development, and is sponsored by the Evans family in recognition of the late Ron Evans’ love of jazz and desire to encourage talent. A further six finalists have been selected for the $5000 ANZ Vocal Scholarship, including local favourite Natasha Weatherill. Generations in Jazz publicist, James Kirkup, says the Mount Gambier singer is one of four repeat finalists returning for another shot at the coveted prizes. “It’s fantastic to see some previous entrants reapplying in 2015; they recognise the value of these awards and the opportunities that they can create,” he says.

Fellow vocal finalist, Connor Harry-Blackall, is in for a hectic lead-up to the competition; the Princes Hill Secondary College music teacher will also be mentoring his students throughout the Generations in Jazz weekend. Meanwhile, Perth pianist Adrian Galante will be hedging his bets and vying for both scholarships after also making the grade as a vocalist.

Each finalist will undergo adjudication in Mount Gambier during the Generations in Jazz weekend, with members of guest international act Hot Horn Happening among the prestigious judging panel. The 2014 James Morrison Jazz Scholarship winner, David Goodwin, says the students are in for an exciting ride. “It’s a pretty emotional few weeks from the moment you find out that you’re one of the finalists to the moment they announce the winner at the Barn, and it’s an overwhelming but really ecstatic feeling being able to go down there as a finalist and play in front of up to 6000 people,” he says.

The former Adelaide-based pianist from Marryatville High School described last year’s win as “a once in a lifetime opportunity” which gave him the confidence and finance to move to Melbourne to study and perform. “It has opened up a world of opportunities and has given me the exposure I was looking for – I’ve been very busy over the past 12 months, but I’m also really looking forward to heading back to Mount Gambier for this year’s event to see some familiar faces along with some of the younger students coming through – and not having to worry about nerves or anything,” he smiles.

The 2014 vocal scholarship winner, Olivia Chindamo, said her career has “exploded” since receiving the award. “I’ve made so many new friends and I’ve never had so many gig bookings in my life! Last month’s Twilight at Taronga Zoo show with James Morrison and his Big Band featuring Jeff Clayton and myself was definitely one of the major highlights of the past 12 months. I feel incredibly honoured to have been so warmly welcomed into the Generations in Jazz family, and I’ll treasure the experience forever,” she says.

Olivia put her scholarship money towards her debut album, Keep An Eye on Spring, which features James Morrison Academy of Music (JMA) staff Graeme Lyall (saxophone) and Ross Irwin (trumpet). Olivia has also just launched new band ‘The Swing Merchants’ with another scholarship finalist, Jake Barden (saxophone), and Mount Gambier-based JMA students Lachlan Hamilton (saxophone), Patrick-Earl Danao (drums), Harry Morrison (bass) and Will Morrison (guitar). “Our first two shows were sold out, so we are really looking forward to getting together again in Mount Gambier during Generations in Jazz,” Olivia said. “About half an hour after I won last year, I realised it meant that I got to come back this year, and I am so excited about seeing everybody again and being in that giant tent witnessing world-class jazz unfold in front of so many keen jazz students – I cannot wait!”