American Pianists Association Announces Sullivan Fortner As 2015 Cole Porter Fellow in Jazz #apajazz2015

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American Pianists Association Announces
Sullivan Fortner

As 2015 Cole Porter Fellow in Jazz 

Joel Harrison, American Pianists Association, (left) with
2015 Cole Porter Fellow Sullivan Fortner (right)
Photo Credit: Mark Sheldon

The American Pianists Association is proud to announce pianist Sullivan Fortner as the winner of the 2015 Jazz Fellowship Awards. The announcement was made after the final round of performances on Saturday, March 28 at Indianapolis’ Hilbert Circle Theatre. Sullivan Fortner joins the illustrious past winners including Aaron Diehl, Dan Tepfer and Aaron Parks, among esteemed others.


Sullivan Fortner, selected from a field of five finalists, was granted a cash prize of $50,000, the largest prize in the world for a young jazz pianist. Additionally, Sullivan Fortner will be offered the opportunity to record with Mack Avenue Records and will receive in-kind career development for two years. For a full biography on Sullivan Fortner, please visit:

During the year-long Jazz Premiere Series the five finalists – Christian Sands, Zach Lapidus, Emmet Cohen, Kris Bowers, and Sullivan Fortner – were judged in concert at the Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis. All five Finalists also participated in the American Pianists Association’s educational and community outreach program, Concerto Curriculum. For the concluding Jazz Discovery Week, March 26 – 29, jury members included pianists Amina FigarovaBill CharlapEdward Simon, and Billy Childs as well as Mack Avenue Records Executive Vice-President Al Pryor.

Semi-finals took place over two sets on Friday, March 27 at The Jazz Kitchen. Each pianist was allotted two 20-minute sets with the esteemed Indianapolis based rhythm team comprised of bassist Nick Tucker and drummer Kenny Phelps. The final round was judged on Saturday, March 28 at Hilbert Circle Theatre, hosted by Grammy® Award-winner Christian McBride. Each pianist performed in duo format with five-time Grammy® Award-winning vocalist Dianne Reeves, tunes specifically chosen by her. Additionally, specifically-commissioned works based on jazz standards were premiered by the Finalists, performances were accompanied by The Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra.


Both sets of the semi-finals were broadcasted live on WFYI-FM, Indianapolis’ NPR affiliate. The finals were live-web streamed via the APA website and can be viewed here. The finals were broadcasted live on WICR-FM. The weekend competition will also be featured in a special Jazz Appreciation Month broadcast on SiriusXM Radio on April 13.  


“I am grateful and shocked,” said Fortner after the announcement from the Hilbert Circle Theatre stage.  “The journey continues and what a journey it has been thus far with all my four brothers, I love them all and I am their number one fan.”


States Joel Harrison, President/CEO and Artistic Director of the American Pianists Association, “What a great evening in Indianapolis. Jazz lives! If there’s a mountain top in jazz we scaled it tonight.” Regarding the competition process Harrison elaborated, “The jury heard, in anonymous fashion, the music submitted by the 42 pianists in which five were selected as the finalists in February, 2014. They were later officially introduced in a special concert from the Rubin Museum followed by an NPR “Jazz Night in America” broadcast. Past winners of this competition have been highly successful and are enjoying much acclaim. Given the level of talent and distinguished achievement of the 2015 Jazz Finalists, I am confident the record of success will continue.”

Sullivan Fortner with Dianne Reeves
Photo Credit: Mark Sheldon

The preliminary round of the competition was held February 22 – 25, 2014, in Indianapolis and judged by a group of 5 nationally-distinguished professionals, including: Brent Wallarab, Specialist in Jazz for the Smithsonian Institution, trombonist for the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (the jazz ensemble-in-residence of the National Museum of American History), and teacher at the Jacobs School of Music of Indiana University in Bloomington; Dana Landry, Director of Jazz Studies at Northern Colorado University in Greeley and Artistic Director of UNC/Greeley Jazz Festival; Jay Harvey, arts blogger and journalist of 42 years (26 years for the Indianapolis Star); John Salmon, jazz and classical pianist, 1983 Fellow of the American Pianists Association and a member of the faculty of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Music since 1989; and Phil DeGreg, pianist and alumnus of the Woody Herman band and Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Cincinnati’s esteemed College Conservatory of Music.

The mission of the American Pianists Association is to advance the careers of American jazz and classical pianists between the ages of 18 – 30. The organization was founded in 1979 in New York City and has been in Indianapolis since 1982.


2015 Jazz Fellowship Awards Finals | Webcast


For more information on the American Pianists Association,
please visit: 

Planning on posting to social media about the American Pianists Association’s 

Jazz Fellowship Awards? Please use the following hashtag: #apajazz2015


The American Pianists Association is supported by REI Real Estate Services, the Arts Council of Indianapolis and the City of Indianapolis, Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation, Lilly Endowment, Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, Christel DeHaan Family Foundation in honor of the children and families of Christel House, the Arts Council of Indianapolis, the Indiana Arts Commission, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency and in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.



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