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American Pianists Association podcast The Journey celebrates its ninth episode

March 14, 2019 | By Lee Clifford

Lee Clifford
Director of Marketing

American Pianists Association podcast The Journey celebrates its ninth episode with the 2015 American Pianists Awards winner Sullivan Fortner, who has been crisscrossing the country building notoriety as a solo artist while performing alongside esteemed colleagues like Dianne Reeves, Roy Hargrove, Dave Liebman and Cécile McLorin Salvant

The Journey showcases the stories of both young artists as they build their careers and the established pianists that have inspired them

The Journey, a podcast by respected biannual American Pianists Awards, has successfully launched and is well into its first season, with nine episodes released to date. Each episode features the journeys of its competition winners and conversations with famed pianists that have paved the way for these young artists. In addition to Sullivan Fortner, other artists starring in newly released episodes include the 2017 classical winner Drew Peterson, introductions to each of the five 2019 jazz finalists and a beautiful conversation between the late Charlie Hamlen, Urusula Oppens and Jerry Lowenthal. 

The series is hosted by the organization’s public radio voice Jill Ditmire and Lee Clifford. Radio veteran Steve Robinson, of New Media Productions, is producer and engineer.

The podcast can be listened to via:



iTunes podcast



Episode 1: Who Wants to Win $100,000?

 The Journey launched with an introduction to the five finalists for the 2019 American Pianists Awards that are competing for the prestigious Cole Porter Fellowship, given every four years to an American jazz pianist at the conclusion of a unique 13-month competition process.

Episode 2: Let’s Hear It For Keelan Dimick!

Episode two featured a conversation with 2019 American Pianists Awards finalist Keelan Dimick who started formal lessons at age thirteen and began a long history of award-winning, with honors that include Interlochen Arts Academy’s “Outstanding Musician” and Gene Harris Jazz Festival’s “Best Jazz Solo.” Keelan has toured across the US, covering seventeen states and five countries, and has shared the stage with jazz luminaries such as David Liebman, Brian Lynch, and multi-platinum recording artists Michael Feinstein.

 Episode 3: Kenny Banks Jr Brings It

The Columbus, Ohio native and second 2019 jazz finalist to be featured on the podcast is Kenny Banks Jr. Kenny started playing piano at age seven, and a move to Atlanta in 2009 helped him pursue his musical career full time. Kenny has worked alongside many GRAMMY-nominated artists including Jennifer Holliday, India Arie, and Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest. He has also been featured in multiple film and television productions, such as “Bessie” alongside Queen Latifah, and “Jacob’s Ladder” with Michael Ealy.

Episode 4: Blues & More With Billy Test

The third 2019 finalist, Billy Test is an award-winning pianist, composer, arranger and educator, as well as the holder of a dual undergraduate degree in jazz and classical performance, and a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music. Billy received second place in the 2017 Montreux Jazz Piano Competition, and was a semi-finalist in the 2012 Nottingham International Solo Jazz Piano Competition. In addition to maintaining an in-demand studio for private instruction, Billy is faculty member of the New York Jazz Workshop, Manhattan School of Music, and Manhattan School of Music Precollege. 

Episode 5: Classical Music Journeys

Episode five of The Journey featured a conversation with 2017 American Pianists Awards winner Drew Petersen, along with classical music luminaries including the 1985 Awards winner Frederic Chiu, Jerry Lowenthal, Ursula Oppens, and the late Charlie Hamlen.

Episode 6: Dave Meder

Pianist, composer, and educator Dave Meder is the fourth 2019 finalist who is quickly becoming one of the prominent artists of his generation, known for his panoramic, genre-bending approach that has earned him slots in both the American Pianists Awards and the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition. 

Episode 7: Improvising With Emmet Cohen

The fifth finalist, Emmet Cohen, has been praised by Downbeat for having a “nimble touch, measured stride and warm harmonic vocabulary.” A frequent collaborator with many jazz legends, Emmet has released two volumes of his acclaimed Masters Legacy Series featuring jazz giants Jimmy Cobb and Ron Carter, with another volume featuring the great Benny Golson in the can. 

Episode 8: Awards Past, Present & Future

Episode eight laid out the journeys of the American Pianists Awards (from inception in 1979) and CEO/Artistic Director Joel Harrison (who joined in 2001). During the episode we’ll hear excerpts from performances by 2013 Awards winner Sean Chen, 2006 Awards winner Spencer Myer, GRAMMY-winning vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater and Kurt Elling, and the five 2019 American Pianists Awards finalists.

Episode 9: Singing With Sullivan Fortner 

Episode nine of “The Journey” dove into the dynamic between singers and pianists from the perspective of 2015 American Pianists Awards winner Sullivan Fortner. Sullivan talks with special correspondent Amanda Sweet of Bucklesweet about his musical upbringing in New Orleans and his current approach to collaborating. Listeners will hear him perform with great vocal talents including Cécile McLorin Salvant, Dianne Reeves, Jean Baylor, José James, and Paul Simon.

Future episodes will include conversations with pianists about collaborating with string players, artists and agents talking about the career path of a pianist and potential pitfalls as well as an episode about the life of a traveling musician, including tips and tricks to stay healthy.


New Media Productions is a media company created in 2016 by Steve Robinson.  The company creates and produces podcasts, CD’s and provides consulting services to a variety of media clients.  Robinson has been creating, producing and developing radio programs for 50 years that have been heard throughout the U.S. and around the world, and most recently served for 16 years as the general manager of WFMT and the WFMT Radio Network in Chicago.

The mission of the American Pianists Association is to discover, promote and advance the careers of young, American, world-class jazz and classical pianists. We celebrate the beauty of music through America's premier jazz and classical awards. The American Pianists Association nurtures the artistic growth of America's top young pianists by focusing on creative expression and career development. Our largest and most prestigious support is given through a biennial competition known as the American Pianists Awards.  Since our founding in 1979, the American Pianists Association has supported 46 winners.

The American Pianists Awards are held every two years to discover the best aspiring young American jazz or classical pianists. The unique and innovative competitions span 13 months and provide a platform to deeply engage musical artists in a variety of creative formats and settings. Winners receive cash and two-years of career advancement and support valued at over $100,000, making this one of the most coveted prizes in the music world and the largest for American jazz pianists.

As part of each American Pianists Awards competition, every finalist completes a residency with a high school orchestra or jazz band. Residencies typically span the course of three days and culminate in a joint public performance with school musicians. Known as Concerto Curriculum, this program brings the beauty of world-class music to new audiences and non-traditional venues, provides pedagogical growth for developing artists, and inspires new generations of young musicians.

For more information please visit The Journey.


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