2021 National Jazz Festival

Registration deadlines have come and gone and we are pleased to announce that we have 68 ensembles, 19 vocalists and 20 instrumentalists from 49 schools across the nation participating in the 2021 National Jazz Festival. Their video recording will be premiered on the National Jazz Festival YouTube channel on May 22, 2021. Subscribe to NJF YouTube channel to be ready for this great event.

The SmartMusic Category!

2021 SmartMusic Category

Thanks to SmartMusic and Alfred Music, the National Jazz Festival is offering a new competitive category to the 2021 virtual festival! We are grateful to SmartMusic and Alfred Music for partnering with us to create the SmartMusic Category” which features the award-winning composer Gordon Goodwin and his tribute to his mentor, the unforgettable Sammy Nestico! Added bonus: premium subscriptions to SmartMusic included!

The “SmartMusic Category” offers two divisions: Large Ensemble and Small Ensemble. In the “SmartMusic Large Ensemble Category”, we are excited to feature Gordon’s new tribute to his mentor Sammy Nestico called My Man Sam. This chart was written in the style of Sammy Nestico; the ranges are reasonable for high school ensembles. It’s a great opportunity to expose students to both Gordon’s writing and Sammy’s style. Ensembles participating in this category will record My Man Sam as their submission. Participants in the “SmartMusic Small Ensemble Category” will record Gordon’s Little Phat Shuffle.

The submissions will premiere on May 22 at the Virtual NJF YouTube Festival!

Gordon Goodwin is a pianist, saxophonist, composer, arranger, and conductor. He is the leader of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band. He has won four Grammy Awards and two Daytime Emmy Awards and has received over twenty Grammy nominations for his compositions and arrangements. As a prolific composer and performer, his inclusion in the festival is a benefit to all participants!

As an added bonus for participants, upon registration to the SmartMusic Category, ensembles will receive free SmartMusic premium subscriptions from now until June 30, 2021!

Register today! https://nationaljazzfestival.org/smartmusic-category/

NJF Composition Category Update!

The University of Northern Colorado’s UNC JAZZ LAB I Ensemble will record the winning piece from the NJF Composition Category!

Thanks to the University of Northern Colorado’s support and collaboration, the UNC Jazz Lab I ensemble will record the winning composition chart from the National Jazz Festival’s Composition Category. The recording will premiere on May 22 at the virtual 2021 NJF festival on NJF YouTube. The UNC Jazz Lab I, the top big band at UNC, is an award-winning ensemble that has performed throughout the U.S. and China and has accompanied major jazz artists.

The winning composer will get to hear his/her score played by this top-notch collegiate ensemble! All the viewers will get to hear this winning chart on YouTube! What an amazing, rare opportunity for an aspiring composer!

Apply today at https://nationaljazzfestival.org/composers/

Watch the UNC Jazz Lab I at the 2020 Jack Rudin Jazz Championship

The National Jazz Festival strives to encourage young musicians to approach composition. Given the individualized style of jazz, the composition world is your oyster. Charlie Parker agreed.

“Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom….They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.” 

There is no boundary line to composition. Jump in. The only demand is dedication and hard work. Put in the time to learn theory, experiment with writing a few bars of melody, listen to the jazz greats, listen to the tune in your head. Hum it. Then write it.

2021 LOVE Award

At the National Jazz Festival High School Jazz Competition and Festival, students are recognized for their community service.

The LOVE Award honors a student who has used their passion for music to better lives of others through activism and/or community service. Students are nominated by their directors, parents or fellow musicians.

Nominate a student here:

Winner of 2020 LOVE Award

Luke Armstrong

Steinert High School

To find out more about the categories offered at the 2021 Virtual National Jazz Festival and Competition and to register for 2021:-REGISTER 2021

2021 Jazz Educator Award

Nominations are now being taken for the 2021 Jazz Educator Award. Awarded to an exemplary educator who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to students and to jazz music education. To nominate your favorite educator complete the nomination form found here…..

Jazz Educator of the Year 2020




To find out more about the categories offered at the 2021 Virtual National Jazz Festival and Competition and to register for 2021:-

Support the NJF

Show your support for the National Jazz Festival and jazz education by becoming a Benefactor or Sustaining Member.

Sign up to participate as a Benefactor or Sustaining Member in our 2021 virtual festival. Your name will appear in our 2021 online event program.

The National Jazz Festival is grounded in a philosophy of personal growth and education and our annual event fosters friendly competition, musical education and the development of lasting connections between young jazz musicians.

Become a Benefactor or Sustaining Member to support our mission to provide a festival with an educational philosophy that is free for all to attend.

The National Jazz Festival is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization and donations are tax-deductible.

Deadline for inclusion in our online event program please sign up by May 1, 2021. Donations are welcome and appreciated at any time!

Take Five with NJF

In a Sentimental Mood…

Almost 12 months ago the 2020 inaugural National Jazz Festival took place in Philadelphia and I am in a sentimental mood. Little did we know that a month later, borders would be closed, schools would shift to remote learning, and the world would barricade indoors for fear of COVID-19. I am not sentimental about that. Honestly, I’m still struggling to settle into this strange new world. Instead, I’m holding onto my blurry memories of February 15, 2020, of the frantic planning that climaxed in that day, and of the excited teens walking the long (really long halls!) of the Philadelphia Convention Center with their instruments and gear. Competition always adds a palpable nervous energy to an atmosphere, and the kids were definitely nervous. But, oh man, so were we. Months of scrambling, raising money, working out logistics with unions and the venue, contacting schools, universities, the music industry, and exhibitors, arranging the rooms, scheduling the day, printing shirts and signs…oh man, it was a LOT. A whole lot, but more so, it was FUN.

The legendary bandleader and composer Duke Ellington produced more than one thousand lasting works. Keystone/Getty Images

Duke Ellington: The Composer, Pt. 1 : NPR

Duke Ellington, the composer of the jazz standard that titles this post, stated, “A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” Are we ever having more fun than when we are trying our best? Take us, the small team of organizers. We had little background in planning an event of this scale. I, for one, had never hosted an event larger than a casual baby shower with 70 attendees. We had valuable and workable skills though, and the ability to learn quickly and think on our feet. We gave it our best, and the resulting festival justified our efforts. Think about our young musicians. They tackle strange chord progressions and rhythm changes, spending hours in frustration trying to nail a composition. They improvise and rework solos on their instruments to express individuality with the aim of offering their best performance. And when they do? Aha! This is the thrill we all crave. And don’t forget our hardworking band directors, especially in this difficult time. Switching from hybrid to remote learning on a dime and teaching music on Zoom is less than ideal. Just like jazz musicians, these teachers improvise. They take the problem and do their best for their students.

There are 2 rules in life:

Number 1- Never quit.

Number 2- Never forget rule number 1.

-Duke Ellington

The 2020 National Jazz Festival is complete and we are so grateful to all participants and proud of ourselves (!) and all the volunteers who helped. Everyone gave it their best. So, 2021? Duke Ellington inspires us again to never quit. We are taking the problem of our current situation creating a virtual 2021 festival. This festival is worth our efforts. Let’s keep giving these young musicians and all the NJF family an opportunity to do our best.