National Jazz Awards

2020 National Jazz Awards

In 2020, the National Jazz Awards will focus on voice.


1. The National Jazz Awards are organised as part of the 2020 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, and the semi-finals and finals will be held in Wangaratta on the weekend of October 30 – November 1, 2020.

2. The competition is open to high-level musicians of any nationality. The age limit is 36 inclusive  (I.e. if you are 36 or younger on or before December 31st, 2020 you are eligible).

3. To enter the competition, contestants must submit a recording of three pieces, one of each from the categories detailed below (not necessarily in this order):

(a) an Australian composition

(b) a ballad (standard or original)

(c) a 12-bar blues (standard or original)

Where the piece in category (a) is a ballad or a blues, the applicant may elect to complete the program with an original piece (ie, composed by the applicant) in any style.

One of these pieces must be played by the contestant with a band including piano/keyboard, bass and drums.  The other two pieces may be played by any combination of these instruments, from solo to quartet.*** Due to the current restrictions, we understand that not everyone will be able to meet with an ensemble to record.  Previous recordings will be accepted, but must be within the last 2 years. (January 2018 – August 2020)

NOTE : Total time of the recording is NOT to exceed 25 minutes; no one piece may exceed 10 minutes. A total duration of approximately 15-20 minutes is recommended.

  • Recordings must be submitted in mp3 format.
  • You will provide a link to the submission that will be downloaded (i.e. a link to dropbox, google drive, soundcloud, etc.). Submissions are to be in mp3 format and no larger than 10mb for each song.
  • Contestants are urged to produce a recording that displays their ability to meet a range of challenges, in a variety of tempos.
  • Contestants will not be judged on the basis of the talent of the other players in the ensemble. However, they should assume responsibility for the overall shape of the performance: choice of material, arrangement of ensemble passages, sequence and
  • duration of solos, etc.
  • Recordings submitted need not be of professional quality, but entrants are reminded that a clear sound will make it easier for the judges to evaluate the content of the recorded pieces.
  • The entrant’s name must not be announced on the recording.

4. Contestants must complete the online application form that will include links to the recordings.  Receipt of all entries will be acknowledged in writing.

NOTE : Acceptance of entries, and nomination of finalists, is left to the discretion of the judges of the competition. Their decisions are final, and no correspondence will be entered into regarding their decisions.

5. Closing date for entries is 11:59 pm August 31, 2020. Entries submitted after this date will not be forwarded to the judges for assessment.

6. Entries will be de-identified before being disseminated to the judging panel. The panel will assess entries on a range of criteria including:

  • Clear instructions for and communication with ensemble (pre-performance)
  • Technique, including sound production, control, intonation, annunciation
  • Time feel
  • Delivery of lyric
  • Improvisation:  Harmony, rhythm, timbre
  • Originality/strength of concept/adventurousness
  • Engagement with ensemble during performance
  • Stage presence

7. A maximum of ten contestants will be selected to perform in the semi-finals as part of the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues. Applicants will be advised by email or telephone of their invitation to participate in the semi-finals. This notification will be sent out to applicants before the end of September, 2020. Contestants selected for the semi-finals must reply to the organisers confirming their participation within seven (7) days of receiving the invitation. Failure to do so will disqualify contestants, and allow the next rated candidate to participate. All applicants will be notified if they are successful or not.

8. Contestants must be prepared to play in the semi-finals in Wangaratta on Friday, October 30 and Saturday, October 31, 2020.Ten contestants will play in the semi-finals; three of these will be chosen to play in the second and final round on Saturday.

If for some reason a contestant is unable to travel to Wangaratta, other arrangements will be discussed with the contestant to enable them to participate.

9. The requirements for the semi-finals and the finals are the same as for the initial application. I.e, the repertoire performed must comprise:

(a) an Australian Composition

(b) a ballad (standard or original)

(c) a 12-bar blues (standard or original)

Where the piece in category (a) is a ballad or a blues, the applicant may elect to complete the program with an original piece (i.e., composed by the applicant) in any style.

One of these pieces must be performed by the vocalist with the band (piano, double bass and drums) provided by the Festival.  The other two pieces should use any combination of these instruments, from solo to quartet.

Contestants may play these pieces in any order.

Total performance time is not to exceed 25 minutes; no one item may exceed 10 minutes. (A total duration of approximately 20 minutes is recommended).

Contestants are urged to display their ability to meet a range of challenges, at a variety of tempos.

Contestants must assume responsibility for the overall shape of the performance: choice and arrangements of material, quality pf ensemble work, sequence and duration of solos, etc.

The judges will assess performances on the criteria outlined in section 6 above.

10. Contestants must respect the specified time limits; failure to do so will affect the judging panel’s ratings.

11. Contestants must appear in the order and at the times specified by the organisers.

12. All performances as part of the competition will be open to the public and broadcast live over Facebook.

13. No fees of any kind will be paid to contestants.

14. For the broadcast (recorded broadcast or streaming), on radio, facebook or television, the contestants waive their right to request fees for such broadcast, but will retain ownership of the recorded performance.

15. Contestants may use written charts or scores if they desire. Charts must be provided for the band.

16. A brief rehearsal with the band will be available during the afternoon of Thursday, 29 October. Rehearsal times will be advised by the organisers.

17. A brief rehearsal with the band may be available prior to the second and final round (subject to the availability of a suitable rehearsal space). Details will be advised when the names of the three finalists are announced.

18. The organisers reserve the right not to award all of the prizes.

19. In the event of a tie, the Chairman of the judging panel will exercise a casting vote.

20. Semi-finalists will travel to Wangaratta at their own expense. Accommodation for semi-finalists will be provided by the organisers (this excludes meals, telephone calls and other miscellaneous expenses), for the nights of October 29 – 31 2020.

21. The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz reserves the right to cancel the National Jazz Awards for any reason, and shall not be liable for compensation to any applicant or contestant.

22. The prizes for the 2020 National Jazz Awards are as follows:

1st Prize  ~ $7,000 and a recording session with Pughouse Studios

2nd Prize  ~ $4,000

3rd Prize  ~  $2,000


For questions or further information regarding the Jazz Awards, please contact Michele Bauer at

With thanks to Pughouse Studios

Pughouse Studios have been a proud sponsor of the National Jazz Awards since 2013 and now they are delighted to present a studio recording session as part of the first prize in 2020.

Since its inception in 2012 more than 150 albums have been produced at Pughouse Studios including by many of Australia’s outstanding jazz, contemporary and classical musicians.

Owner/engineer, Nikolaus Schauble is also a composer, music producer and has worked as a jazz drummer for over 40 years. He has been nominated for many awards including the APRA AMCOS Art Music Awards (for recording).

Niko is currently working on a collaboration with West-Australian sound artist Jon Tarry as well as writing compositions for several European ensembles, including the Berlin Jazz Composers Orchestra.

2018 national jazz awards

Media Release, 4 November 2018

Sydney drummer Alex Hirlian has won the annual National Jazz Awards (NJAs), Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues announced tonight.

In a hotly-contested final featuring 10 of the country’s best young jazz drummers playing with the professional NJA band, Alex narrowly beat Adelaide’s Angus Mason (2nd place) and Oli Nelson from Redfern, NSW (3rd place).

Head judge David Jones praised the outstanding quality of all the entrants, saying, “It was special hearing these great drummers playing so well, with such a supportive band behind them. They really are 10 of the most beautiful jazz musicians in this country, and it was such a tough call choosing the winner.”

The NJAs capped off a stellar weekend for the festival, with more than 300 artists from across the world performing 80 concerts over eight venues. From jazz stalwarts and blues lovers through to tourists and locals alike, there was music, food and venue choices to suit all.

Festival Chairman, Mark Bolsius, said more than 4,000 tickets were sold to the jazz and blues venue concerts, with tens of thousands more coming out in glorious weather to enjoy the free community stage and markets in Merriwa Park.

“The international acts in particular have been extraordinary,” Mr Bolsius said. “They may not have been household names when they arrived, but their names are now on everyone’s lips… audiences have been raving about the variety of acts and the fact that we’ve broken down genre barriers between blues and jazz. Several acts performed on both blues and jazz stages, and we’ve had a number of amazing collaborations between local and international artists that wouldn’t normally happen.

“There was something for every age group too, with Justine Clarke being a massive drawcard for the kids.”

Festival Lead Co-Artistic Director, Adam Simmons, said the new location of the community stage at Merriwa Park, as well as the Sunday markets and the hugely popular blues marquee, created an exciting and thriving festival vibe.

“We’re happy to report that the festival has been an unqualified success. There’s been a real buzz in town all weekend, well-attended and packed-out audiences everywhere. The musicians call it the ‘Wang hang’ because they get to meet so many other artists from around the world and interstate, and that creates new opportunities for creative collaborations.”

Festival Co-Artistic Director for Blues, Frank Davidson, added that his festival highlights were Red Hands, Ray Beadle, Zoe Hauptman, Evan Manell and Clayton Doley all ‘seamlessly blending jazz blues soul stirred in a big rhythmic cauldron’.

“Tina Harrod her band her celestial backing vocalists in the superb sound environment of the WPAC Theatre was a highlight: what a performer! Then the UK blues juggernaut with Matt Schofield trio Friday and Starlight Campbell band Saturday proved the blues is strong as ever. Thanks Wangaratta…see you for #30 next year!”

 Tim Firth, drums – NJA winner in 2011

In an interview before the 2011 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues, Tim Firth (who was to go on to win the award in 2011) spoke to about the festival and said:

It’s the best jazz festival in the country. Hands down. Playing at this festival is such an honour for me. One of my fondest memories is playing in the 2004 National Jazz Awards finals, alongside some my drumming idols. Then two years later I got to perform at the festival with James Muller’s Trio, Theaktet and Dave Panichi’s Septet. It was such a thrill for me playing with some of my favourite bands on that stage. It’s probably the biggest stage in Australian jazz. Playing at the Wangaratta Jazz festival really gives you the feeling like you’ve made it. I love it.

Ben Falle, Tim Firth, Dave Goodman

NJA final three drum contestants in 2011 – Ben Falle, Tim Firth, Dave Goodman