About six years ago a cold call from Joel Harrison, APA’s ever enthusiastic CEO and Artistic Director, ultimately led us two years later to Carnegie Hall for the solo performance of one of APA’s Jazz Finalists, Jeremy Siskind. I wrote about that journey then, A Cold Call and Carnegie Hall, and now I write again after the 2015 Jazz Fellowship Awards finale with Sullivan Fortner being named the Cole Porter Fellow in Jazz. A whole lot more has happened since Joel made his first call!
You see Jeremy and Sullivan have a lot in common. Both are extraordinary musicians, of course, or else they wouldn’t have been chosen to participate in the year-long competition. But they also share the experience of “Living with the Lymans” during their respective visits to the Heartland as APA Jazz Finalists. As their host family we learned a lot about Jeremy and Sullivan – Jeremy craves Cheerios in the morning and Sullivan’s taste is for Raisin Bran. And we learned so much more about what brought them to love the music they play and what drives them to express themselves through their music. Bottom line is that each of these young men is a pure delight and will always be considered “family” and know that our door is always open to them. Indeed, these “brothers” have made it a point to take us up on that and regularly wish us well on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and other special days.
But their real families are something special too. During the week of the Finals we had the greatest pleasure to spend a lot of time with the Fortner family, Mom, Dad and his two wonderful sisters. The Fortners being from New Orleans, I’m sure that we will get together again as we travel to NOLA to visit the son whose last name is actually the same as ours.
The Jazz Guys
Speaking of family, the Finalists, Zach, Emmet, Kris, Christian and Sullivan have become family as well. Their friendship will be lasting. These guys will continue to share their dedication to the music they play, and now will share the APA experience of the competition and community outreach to local high school musicians whose lives they each touched.
The Host Families
Being a host family for these young men may seem like a daunting burden to some but I think I can speak for all of us – Bob and Toni Bader, Kim Thomas, Christian and Elaine Wolf and Lin Frauenhoff – that we wouldn’t trade our time feeding, transporting, supporting and sometimes acting as fashion consultant – for anything. It’s not a burden. It’s an honor.
The Jazz Finals
Finally, a word or two about this year’s Jazz Finals held at the Hilbert Circle Theater to a sold out audience and heard by millions all over the world. In greeting all who were attending and listening, Mayor Greg Ballard made a point of saying that Indianapolis welcomes everyone! How true. Grammy Award winner, Dianne Reeves, was spectacular as she was accompanied by each of the guys in their duo performance. The Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra was exceptional and allowed each Finalist to shine. The judges’ daunting task of selecting the winner from among all of these winners was not to be envied. But choose they did and Sullivan is now the Fellow. As Sullivan’s host family we’re proud of him as we are also proud of the other superb Finalists. We’ll be hearing a lot from all of them in the future.
And most of all I’m proud of the American Pianists Association, its amazing staff and its growing list of strong supporters across the country for making this year’s Jazz Fellowship Awards by far the best and most successful competition of its kind in the world.
The future is bright as the APA focuses on the future with the Classical Fellowship Awards that will culminate with the announcement of the Christel DeHaan Classical Fellow in the Spring of 2017. I hope you will join me in supporting the APA’s Mission to discover, promote and advance the careers of young American world-class jazz and classical pianists.
Photography by Mark Sheldon