Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues, announces guitar as this year's spotlight instrument.

In 2014, Australia’s most prestigious jazz instrumental competition, the National Jazz Awards (NJA), puts the spotlight on Australia’s leading young jazz guitarists. Musicians of any nationality up to the age of 35 will compete to be among the top 10 entrants, who will then be invited to perform at this year’s Wangaratta Jazz Festival – October 31 to 3 November.
Prize-money for the Awards has been increased this year thanks to the support of Sydney music lovers and philanthropists, Anthony and Sharon Lee.  The winner will receive $12,000, the runner-up $6,000, and the third place-getter $3,000.

In addition to these cash prizes, the winner will be invited to record in the ABC studios for ABC Classic FM’s Jazztrack With Mal Stanley, and to perform in the 2015 Stonnington Jazz festival. The runner-up will also receive a recording session at Pughouse Studios in Melbourne.

Renowned Sydney-based jazz pianist Mike Nock will again serve as Chairman of the judging panel, and will be joined by two outstanding guitarists, James Muller and Stephen Magnusson, co-winners of the NJA in 2000. The judging panel will assess the recordings submitted on a blindfold basis.  The ten highest-ranked entrants will then be invited to participate in the finals at the 2014 Wangaratta Jazz festival, on the weekend of 31October – 3 November.

Entrants must be no older than 35, as at 1 November 2014. The closing date for entries is 1 June.  Entry forms can be downloaded from the festival’s website

The National Jazz Awards have been an integral part of Australia’s premier jazz festival since Wangaratta Jazz began in 1990. This year will be the first time that guitar has been featured since 2007, when the first prize was awarded to Aaron Flower.

The Festival’s artistic director, Adrian Jackson, said, “This is the 25th year of the National Jazz Awards. The competition was designed to be the focal point of the festival weekend, and also to identify and encourage outstanding young musicians.

“You only have to read the list of past winners to see how effective the National Jazz Awards have been. Many of the very best musicians on the Australian jazz scene are there, and in some cases, their performance on the stage at Wangaratta established their name on the national stage. The winner of last year’s Awards, pianist Joseph O’Connor, is a great example of that.

“At the same time, it isn’t just about the musician who wins the first prize. I know that a lot of the other finalists have benefited from the exposure they received at the festival, and have been inspired by the chance to spend time with their peers, and to perform with the established musicians who join them onstage.”

The finals on Sunday 2 November, will be broadcast live to air nationally on Jazztrack with Mal Stanley on ABC Classic FM, from 5.00pm.