August 2018 Convention
Orlando, FL

Jazz Artist Competition Final Round

Among the myriad jazz offerings at this year’s convention—thank you, Program Chair Francesca Arnone!—this event proved to be one of my favorite jazz concerts of the entire week. The three finalists of the Jazz Artist Competition performed with a rhythm section for a panel of judges, all exceptional performances.

Contestants performed four different pieces of their choosing, all from the standard jazz and/or Brazilian jazz repertoire. Alex Lui, Elsa Nilsson, and Nilton Moreira brought their talent, musicality, professionalism, and poise to the stage. It was a pleasure to witness, as each set highlighted their individual styles.

Jazz Artist judges Bill McBirnie, Jose Valentino, and Nestor Torres

With apparent ease, the three performed with an absolutely stellar rhythm section, which NFA provided for them: Vitor Gonçalves on piano, Burt Boice on bass, and Julien Cantelm on drums. (Many thanks to Rebecca Kleinmann for offering her rhythm section for this event.)

Ernesto Fernandez, the Jazz Artist Competition coordinator, organized every aspect of the competition, right up through the final round. With Cuban roots, Fernandez is one of today’s finest Latin-jazz flutists (as evidenced throughout the convention), making him well qualified to oversee every detail, including the choice of the three judges, jazz and Latin flute stars in their own right: Nestor Torres, Bill McBirnie, and José Valentino Ruiz. What an exciting opportunity for the three contestants to have performed for three of today’s top players!

Prize monies, provided by Gemeinhardt Musical Instruments, were awarded to the three winners at the Friday Night Gala. Elsa Nilsson, thanks to her exceptional performance, won first prize; Nilton Moreira won second prize, with his beautiful interpretations of well-chosen Brazilian repertoire; and high-school phenom Alex Lui took home third prize as NFA Jazz Artist. It was quite an achievement for a teenager to play at such a high level, up against two pros.

Three great players, three absolute winners. I have no doubt we’ll be hearing more from these three!

—Ali Ryerson, NFA Jazz Artist Competition founder

photo by Ernesto Fernandez.jpg