Wangaratta Festival of Jazz

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Wangaratta Festival of Jazz
Genre Jazz
Dates always in October/November the weekend before Melbourne Cup Day
Location(s) Australia Wangaratta, Victoria
Years active 1990 – present

The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz is an annual festival of jazz and blues, founded in 1990 and held in the town of Wangaratta, 2.5 hours from Melbourne in the north-east of Victoria, Australia.

Since its founding 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 Wangaratta City Council. The Council 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 also recommended that such a festival be built around an international-standard jazz piano competition.

The first festival was staged in 1990. It was a much smaller event than it is now; 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 ‘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 was worth supporting through its early years.

A central feature of the festival has always been the National Jazz Awards, a competition designed to encourage and promote young musicians. (It was initially run as a competition for pianists from 1990-92, the format has since changed to feature a different instrument each year).

The Festival grew rapidly through the 1990s, and stabilised in size and format through its second decade. In its first four years, the festival featured just one international guest each year; now, several international bands or soloists are featured each year, often in collaborative projects with Australian artists.[1]

In 2000, Tourism Victoria recognised the festival as a Victorian Hallmark Event, recognising the cultural and economic significance of the festival to the Wangaratta region and Victoria.

In its early years, the Festival was managed by a sub-committee organised and underwritten by the local Council. In 1995, the Festival 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.

Adrian Jackson has been the festival’s artistic director since 1990.

National Jazz Awards History[edit]

In the festival’s 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 international competitions in France (the Martial Solal Piano Competition) and the USA (the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition).

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.

The three finalists in succeeding years were

1993 : Tim Hopkins, Blaine Whittaker, Graeme Norris

1994 : Julien Wilson, Elliott Dalgleish, Lisa Parrott

1995 : Elliott Dalgleish, Jamie Oehlers, Blaine Whittaker

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 & 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)

2010 : Eamon McNelis, Matt Jodrell, Nick Garbett (Brass)

2011 : Tim Firth, Ben Falle, Dave Goodman (Drums)

2012 : Kristin Berardi, Kate Kelsey-Sugg, Liz Tobias (Vocals)

2013 : Joseph O'Connor, Steve Barry, Daniel Gassin (Piano)

2014 : Carl Morgan, Hugh Stuckey, Peter Koopman (Guitar)

2015 : Sam Anning, Alex Boneham, Thomas Botting (Bass)


Award recipients[edit]

  • 2015 - Sam Anning bass [3]
  • 2014 - Carl Morgan guitar
  • 2013 - Joseph O’Connor piano [4]
  • 2012 - Kristin Berardi vocals [5]
  • 2011 - Tim Firth, drums
  • 2010 - Eamon McNelis, trumpet
  • 2009 - Zac Hurren, saxophone [6]
  • 2008 - Phil Stack, bass
  • 2007 - Aaron Flower, guitar
  • 2006 - Jackson Harrison, piano
  • 2005 - Elana Stone, vocals
  • 2004 - Felix Bloxsom, drums
  • 2003 - Phil Slater, brass
  • 2002 - Roger Manins, saxophone
  • 2001 - Brendon Clarke, bass
  • 2000 - Stephen Magnusson / James Muller (tied), guitar
  • 1999 - Matt McMahon, piano
  • 1998 - Michelle Nicolle, vocals
  • 1997 - Will Guthrie, drums
  • 1996 - Scott Tinkler, brass
  • 1995 - Elliott Dalgleish, saxophone
  • 1994 - Julien Wilson, saxophone
  • 1993 - Tim Hopkins, saxophone
  • 1992 - Jann Rutherford, piano
  • 1991 - Mark Fitzgibbon, piano
  • 1990 - Barney McAll, piano


External links[edit]