Big Band Composition Competition and Gerald Wilson Award

(L-R) Tim Jackson, 2014 Gerald Wilson Award winner Matt Wong, Ambrose Akinmusire, and Bobby Hutcherson at the 57th Monterey Jazz Festival, 9.21.2014.

Each year since 2005 at the Next Generation Jazz Festival, the Big Band Composition Competition is open to student composers currently enrolled in high school.

Compositions are judged by college-level music faculty, and the winning composer receives the Gerald Wilson Award, named in honor of the late legendary composer, arranger and trumpeter who was a friend of Monterey Jazz Festival for many years.

The winning composition is performed on the Jimmy Lyons Stage in the Arena at the annual Monterey Jazz Festival by the Festival's all-star student band, the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, and the student composer is given the Gerald Wilson Award and a cash prize.


Big Band Composition Competition / Gerald Wilson Award:

2014: Matt Wong, Prima Luce
Independence High School / San Francisco, CA

Matt Wong, 16, is a pianist, composer, and arranger and is a senior at the Independence High School in San Francisco, California. Matt began playing piano at age six, and his musical influences include Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, Jimmy Smith, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Monty Alexander, Henry Butler, Chick Corea, and Robert Glasper.

He is currently a member of the award-winning SFJAZZ High School All-Stars Jazz Orchestra and Combo;, and the Jazzschool’s Studio Band in Berkeley. He regularly performs solo, with his own group, the Matt Wong Trio, and as a member of other ensembles in venues around the Bay Area, including the SFJAZZ Center, Yoshi’s San Francisco and Oakland, Davies Symphony Hall, the Jazzschool, the Sound Room, and Stanford University’s Bing Concert Hall. He has additionally appeared at the Blue Note in New York City, Jazz Alley in Seattle, the Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania, and the Monterey Jazz Festival.

As a composer and arranger, his big band compositions have been performed by the Realistic Orchestra, the Berklee Rainbow Band, and the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars Orchestra. Some of his recent achievements in 2014 include being selected to the GRAMMY® Jazz Session Combo; winning both the ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award and Berklee College of Music’s Herb Pomeroy Jazz Composition & Arranging Contest; a DownBeat Student Music Award for Original Composition; and a Outstanding Soloist Award at the 2014 Next Generation Jazz Festival. He was also selected for the 2014 Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony in Stockton, California.

“Prima Luce” was performed by the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra at the 57th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival on September 21, 2014.


Gerald Wilson Award Winners:

2014: Matt Wong, Prima Luce
Independence High School / San Francisco, CA

2013: Nathaniel Schwartz, Ninjas Can’t Catch You If You’re On Fire
Northgate High School / Walnut Creek, CA

2012: Christopher McCarthy, Something Small
Roosevelt High School / Seattle, WA

2011: Chase Morrin, Mumphis
Canyon Crest Academy / San Diego, CA

2010: John Sturm, Sounds of Dusk
Princeton High School / Princeton, NJ
See the written composition.

2009: Andy Clausen, Fly
Roosevelt High School / Seattle, WA

2008: Sean Richey, 40 Days and 40 Nights
Buchanan High School / Clovis, CA

2007: Levi Saelua, Spectrum
Rio Americano High School / Sacramento, CA

2006: Kyle Athayde, By Candlelight
Acalanes High School / Lafayette, CA

2005: Adam Bravo, Perpendicular Reality
Mission Viejo High School / Mission Viejo, CA

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