Get to know Jazz Fellowship Awards Finalist Sullivan Fortner


We are pleased to introduce you to SULLIVAN FORTNER, one of the five Finalists for the American Pianists Association’s 2014 – 2015 Jazz Fellowship Awards presented by REI Real Estate Services.


Where did you grow up?

I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana

Are you from a musical family?

Yes… My family is filled with singers and a few instrumentalist on both sides.

What attracted you to the piano? 

I had a big crush on the organist at church when I was little, and would imitate her a lot. Then my mom would see me climb on top of the living room TV banging out and conducting the songs we played in church that week. After that she bought me a Fisher Price toy piano, and I was hooked ever since.


What age were you when you started to play the piano? 

I believe I was 4…


How do you deal with the pressure and being on stage? 

I’ll say to myself, “Sully, It’s almost over”… Then once it is time to start, I try to zone in on the 1st note I or the other musicians play and go from there.

Favorite venue? 

Probably the Village Vanguard in New York… The sound there is incredible. Also, it has a very rich history.

NewYork_VillageVanguard_20110111_02-1 (2)

Biggest musical influence? 

SO MANY! But if I had to narrow it down to a few institutions, it would be New Orleans culture, The Black Church Experience, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Manhattan School of Music (MSM), Roy Hargrove and Stefon Harris. These were and still are my teachers and the shoulders I stand on.

What is an ordinary day like for you? 

An ordinary day for me varies from time to time. On a non-touring day, I would wake up late (roughly noon), eat, practice, exercise (maybe), sleep, practice, go out and hang with friends/go listen to music.

What type of music do you listen to?

Blues, Jazz, Gospel, Classical, R&B…. Then there are Classic Movie/Disney Soundtracks. Really all types though.

Favorite Restaurants?

New Orleans Food and Spirit, Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro and Popeyes (haha)

Favorite movie(s)?

Casablanca, Coming to America, Harlem Nights and X-Men

Favorite TV show(s)?

Sanford and Son, The Cosby Show, I Love Lucy and Family Matters


Favorite color?


Favorite season?


Favorite vacation destination? 

As long as its a vacation, ANYWHERE!

On Saturday, November 8th, Finalist Sullivan Fortner will play the 2nd concert of the American Pianists Association‘s 2014 – 2015 Jazz Fellowship Awards presented by REI Real Estate Services (Christian Sands kicked off the competition in September). This concert (and the following 3 Premiere Series concerts) will begin at 8 PM at The Jazz Kitchen.

Sullivan Photo 7
photo credit: Brad Berger 

Then, Emmet Cohen on Saturday, December 6.
photo credit: Silvie Cheng

Zach Lapidus will play the first concert of 2015 on Saturday, January 24. Zach Lapidus Piano
photo credit: John Behringer

And, Kris Bowers will play the final Premiere Series concert on Saturday, February the piano with polka dot socks

The competition doesn’t stop in February!

All 5 Finalists will return to Indianapolis to perform at The Jazz Kitchen for the Semi-Finals on Friday, March 27, 2015 and at Hilbert Circle Theatre for the Finals presented by Ice Miller on Saturday, March 28, 2015.


TICKETS: 317.940.9945 |


Author: americanpianistsassociation

The mission of the American Pianists Association is to discover, promote and advance the careers of young, American jazz and classical pianists.

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