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Wangaratta Festival of Jazz

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Wangaratta Festival of Jazz
DatesLate October or early November
Location(s)Wangaratta, Victoria, Australia
Years active1990–2018, 2020–

The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz is an annual Australian festival of jazz and blues, founded in 1990 by the City of Wangaratta with Adrian Jackson as its first director. It is held at various venues in the town of Wangaratta, 260 kilometres (161.6 mi) north east of the state capital, Melbourne.

Since its inception the festival has grown to include 90 events and over 350 national and international artists performing each year. The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz also hosts the National Jazz Awards, Youth Jazz Workshops, master classes and events throughout Wangaratta and surrounding wine regions.

In 1999 the festival won a National Tourism Award and was inducted into the Victorian Tourism Hall of Fame. In 2000 the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz became a Victorian Hallmark Event.


The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz was conceived in 1989, when a group of local business people suggested the idea to the City of Wangaratta's Council. They funded a feasibility study which concluded that, although there were numerous music festivals in Australia, a point of difference could be achieved with one based on modern and contemporary jazz. It was recommended that such a festival be built around an international-standard jazz competition, initially for piano.

The first festival was staged on 2 to 4 November 1990.[1][2] Adrian Jackson was its artistic director from 1990 to 2016.[3] It was a much smaller event in its early years: attendances were around 2500 or so, and total box-office was around $25,000. But the event was regarded as a success, and was hailed in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald (by Sydney jazz critic John Clare) as "the best festival of its kind ever held in Australia." Such feedback helped convince the Council that the event had a future and continued supporting it.

A feature of the festival is the National Jazz Awards, a competition designed to encourage and promote young musicians. It was initially run as a piano competition for pianists (from 1990 to 1992), but this was changed to feature a different instrument each year. The inaugural winner of the piano competition, Barney McAll, received a prize of $5,000 and a return air fare to France to compete in the Paris Concours International Piano Competition.[1]

The festival grew through the 1990s and stabilised in size and format through its second decade. In its first four years, it had one international guest; later several international bands or soloists are featured, often in collaborative projects with Australian artists.[4] In its early years the festival was managed by a sub-committee organised and underwritten by the local council. In 1995 it was incorporated as a not-for-profit organisation, and has since been run as an independent body. The Rural City of Wangaratta remains a key stakeholder, as does the Victorian Government (which provides funding via Arts Victoria and Tourism Victoria), and the Australian Government via the Australia Council for the Arts. In 2000 Tourism Victoria recognised the festival as a Victorian Hallmark Event, for its cultural and economic significance to the Wangaratta region and Victoria.

In 2018 the Board of the Festival voted to put the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues on a year's hiatus.[5] The reasons given were related to "the need to look strategically at the festival's operating model, and its long-term sustainability."

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the festival to go virtual since 2020.

National Jazz Awards History[edit]

In the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz' first year (1990), it was decided to feature an international-standard jazz piano competition, for musicians up to the age of 35. The format and rules were based on similar competitions in France (the Martial Solal Piano Competition) and the United States (the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition). At that time each contestant provided an audio tape, "from which finalists will be selected. These will be short-listed for the play-off."[6]

The inaugural winner was Barney McAll, with Jann Rutherford winning second prize and Scott Griffiths the third prize. In 1991, Mark Fitzgibbon won first prize, followed by Jann Rutherford and Cathy Harley. In 1992, Jann Rutherford succeeded on her third attempt; Cathy Harley was the runner-up, with Jeff Usher in third place. After that, it was decided to alter the format to feature saxophone, and from 1996, to rotate the featured instrument each year.

Year Winner Final nominees Instrument Ref(s)
1990 Barney McAll Jann Rutherford, Scott Griffiths Piano
1991 Mark Fitzgibbon Jann Rutherford, Cathy Harley Piano
1992 Jann Rutherford Cathy Harley, Jeff Usher Piano
1993 Tim Hopkins Blaine Whittaker, Graeme Norris Saxophone
1994 Julien Wilson Elliott Dalgleish, Lisa Parrott Saxophone
1995 Elliott Dalgleish Jamie Oehlers, Blaine Whittaker Saxophone
1996 Scott Tinkler Phil Slater, James Greening Brass
1997 Will Guthrie Dave Goodman, Danny Fischer Drums
1998 Michelle Nicolle Lily Dior, Martin Breeze Vocals
1999 Matt McMahon Aron Ottignon, Cathy Harley Piano
2000 James Muller and Stephen Magnusson (tied) Carl Dewhurst Guitar
2001 Brendan Clarke Matt Clohesy, Dane Alderson Bass
2002 Roger Manins Jamie Oehlers, Blaine Whittaker Saxophone
2003 Phil Slater Eugene Ball, Paul Williamson Brass
2004 Felix Bloxsom Craig Simon, Dave Goodman Drums
2005 Elana Stone Jo Lawry, Kristin Berardi Vocals
2006 Jackson Harrison Marc Hannaford, Aaron Choulai Piano
2007 Aaron Flower Ben Hauptmann, Hugh Stuckey Guitar
2008 Phil Stack Ben Waples, Sam Anning Bass
2009 Zac Hurren Phil Noy, Jacam Manricks Saxophone [7]
2010 Eamon McNelis (trumpet) Matt Jodrell, Nick Garbett Brass
2011 Tim Firth Ben Falle, Dave Goodman Drums
2012 Kristin Berardi Kate Kelsey-Sugg, Liz Tobias Vocals [8]
2013 Joseph O'Connor Steve Barry, Daniel Gassin Piano [9][10]
2014 Carl Morgan Hugh Stuckey, Peter Koopman Guitar
2015 Sam Anning Alex Boneham, Thomas Botting Bass [11]
2016 Mike Rivett Troy Roberts, Jeremy Rose Saxophone [12]
2017 James Macaulay (trombone) Niran Dasika, Thomas Avgenicos Brass [13]
2018 Alex Hirlian Angus Mason, Oliver (Oli) Nelson Drums [14]
2019 No award - festival not held No award - festival not held - -
2020 Lauren Henderson Joshua Kyle, Jess Spina Vocals [15]


  1. ^ a b Foster, Michael (31 May 1990). "June Jazz in Tea Lounge". The Canberra Times. Good Times. Vol. 64, no. 20, 137. p. 9. Retrieved 23 May 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ Foster, Michael (26 July 1990). "Quality Jazz from Cats Pleases Crowd". The Canberra Times. Vol. 64, no. 20, 193. p. 26. Retrieved 23 May 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ Morgan, Shana (21 February 2017). "Wangaratta Jazz Festival Artistic Director Adrian Jackson no Longer in Tune with the Job". The Border Mail. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  4. ^ Nicholas, Jessica (5 November 2013). "Review: Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  5. ^ "Media Release: Taking A Break Before Celebrating 30th Anniversary In 2020". Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  6. ^ Foster, Michael (26 September 1991). "Wilson Fires a Passion for Big Bands". The Canberra Times. Vol. 66, no. 20, 620. p. 16. Retrieved 23 May 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ (15 November 2010) "Zac Hurren takes out National Jazz Awards", archived from the original on 20 April 2017. Retrieved on 23 May 2018.
  8. ^ Stanley, Mal (22 December 2013), "Kristin Berardi Meets Leonard", Program: Jazztrack, archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved on 23 May 2018.
  9. ^ Wangaratta Jazz 2013 | Ausjazz Blog
  10. ^ National Jazz Awards 2013 - AustralianJazz.net
  11. ^ Stanley, Mal (5 November 2015), "The 2015 National Jazz Awards Live", Jazztrack, archived from the original on 28 June 2016. Retrieved on 23 May 2018.
  12. ^ "National Jazz Awards 2016 winner", Jazz Australia
  13. ^ Stanley, Mal (5 November 2017), "2017 National Jazz Awards Live" Jazztrack
  14. ^ "National Jazz Awards", Festival website
  15. ^ "ABC Jazz on Facebook". Facebook. Archived from the original on 30 April 2022.[user-generated source]

External links[edit]