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The Luminarts Cultural Foundation

The Luminarts Cultural Foundation at the Union League Club of Chicago will host the 2016 Jazz Finals at Buddy Guy’s Legends on Wednesday, March 9, 2016. Thaddeus Tukes The Jazz Fellowship Competition awards five $5,000 Luminarts Fellowships to jazz musicians through the performance of original, creative, and spontaneously improvised jazz music. The competition includes a two-tiered jury process, with preliminary auditions held at the Union League Club of Chicago, and final round auditions held during the 2016 Jazz Showcase at Buddy Guy’s Legends. Applicants will compete in one of two categories, ages 18-24 and ages 25-30. We talked with Jim Gillespie, one of the directors of the the Luminarts Cultural Foundation, to get some background on the jazz fellowships and more information on the foundation that has helped so many musicians reach their goals. Chicago Jazz Magazine: How did the Luminarts Cultural Foundation get started? Gillespie: 60 plus years ago members of the Union League Club of Chicago came together to form a foundation to support cultural and civic programs geared towards young people throughout the Chicago community. The Foundation has evolved over the year’s and became the Luminarts Cultural Foundation and honed our mission to identify and support the Chicago region’s most talented young writers, artists, and musicians 3 years ago. Chicago Jazz Magazine: When did the jazz fellowship get started? Gillespie: While the jazz program was started about 20 years ago, the Fellowship program begin in 2013. Chicago Jazz Magzine: How much scholarship money is awarded in the jazz fellowship division and are there specific ways that the money must be used by the recipients? Gillespie: The Foundation awards $5,000 grants to five jazz musicians. The awards are merit based and the recipient can use the money as they see fit. Once named a Fellow, the awardee can return to the Foundation annually and request up to $2,500 for special project or career development activities. Chicago Jazz Magazine: Over the years how many students have benefited from winning scholarship money? Gillespie: Over the years, more than 200 recipients have benefitted specifically from Luminarts jazz-related awards, including the $5,000 fellowships, supports for special fellow projects such as album recordings, new instruments, and professional travel, and funding for special performances and events in and around Chicago and the Luminarts Cultural Foundation and the Union League Club of Chicago. Chicago Jazz Magazine: What is the process for young musicians to apply to participate and move on in the competition? Gillespie: Any young jazz musician who is between the ages of 18 and 30, has graduated or is enrolled in a degree or conservancies program, and lives within 150 miles of downtown Chicago can apply. They initially apply online and then schedule an audition to perform before the judges. The finalists are then selected to play at the finals at Buddy Guys where the five fellows are selected and announced. Chicago Jazz Magazine: The finals will be held at Buddy Guy’s on Wednesday March 9th of this year. Who will are the judges and who is the house band at the finals? Gillespie:Judges include Bob Ojeda, Willie Pickens, and Tom Hope. The house band trio includes Ron Perrillo, Bob Rummage, and Nick Schneider. MC for the event will be Barry Winograd. Chicago Jazz Magazine: Are the finals open to the public? Gillespie: Yes, the more the merrier! The doors open at 5 p.m. and the event begins at 5:30 p.m. Attendees do not need to rsvp and admission is free. Justin Copeland Chicago Jazz Magazine: Is there one particular performance that stands out from all of the performances over the years? If so can you describe it? Gillespie: Truly, the awardees are all remarkable and it’s hard to single one of them out. Chicago Jazz Magazine: Who are some of the past winners and how have the scholarships helped them to grow their musical careers? Gillespie: Marquis Hill, trumpet, went on to win the Thelonious Monk International Trumpet Competition award. Victor Garcia, trumpet, released dozens of albums, two that earned Grammy nominations in 2005 and 2008. Educator with Loyola University Katie Ernst, bass and vocalist, directs Wheaton College Jazz Ensemble, works with high school students at the Jazz Institute of Chicago, and continues releasing new music and projects. In 2015 she released her album “Little Words.” Brian Scarborough, trumpet, performed at the 2015 American Trombone Workshop hosted by the U.S. Army Band at Ft. Myer and won the National Solo Jazz Competition. Began teaching assistant position for 2015 Jazz Trombone Institute at the Brevard Music Center in Brevard, North Carolina. Robert Dicke, drums and Natalie Lande, alto saxophone have each gone on to record albums and perform and teach in and around Chicago. Robert’s album “Class” and Natalie’s album “Learning How to Fly” were released in 2015, with a joint CD promo and release party at Martyrs in Chicago, partially funded through Luminarts Fellow Project Grants. Visit for more information.

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