“The uniqueness of the Global Competition for Jazz Musicians stands in its being fully online, in having a jury representative of the entire world, and a voting system that leaves solely to jazz experts the power to decide who is the winner.” The contest’s fifth edition is currently under way. LJN writer, and one of this year’s contest judges, Peter Slavid set up an introduction for Sebastian to speak with CEO of the 7 Virtual Jazz Club, Valerio Pappi:
LondonJazz News: Tell us about your own history in music and what first gave you the idea of setting up the competition…
Valerio Pappi: I got close to jazz at a very young age, for many years I’ve been a musician, and I wrote a book on the harmonic mechanisms for guitar. By travelling the world together with other jazz lovers just like me, I’ve noticed how many talents didn’t get the chance to make it, especially those not supported by producers or labels. The idea at the base of this contest is the one of a global jam session, where all musicians, without distinctions of age or nationality, can exhibit and compete. In order to do so, the only possibility was to carry out the contest online.
LJN: What is the process?
VP: Each contestant (soloists or bands) enters the competition by sending a live video performance (either recorded at a gig or in the studio). There are two categories: Pros&Amateurs and Under25.
The contest develops in a three-rounds structure. During the first round, the videos are sent to our international jury made up of 27 members representing multiple countries all over the world, who give them a score from 1 to 10. The second round starts with a selection of 50 videos which can be voted on online by the web community, which assigns the Web Community prize. The three winners of the Web Community Prize go straight to the final, together with two videos from each group of judges. The judges score the finalists and by averaging the votes the three winners of the Jury Prize are decided. More info here.
LJN: What are the costs to participants/ entrants?
VP: I’ve been a musician myself and I really didn’t want to put an entry fee for the contest. Unfortunately, we are still looking for a sponsor to invest in our project, therefore I’ve been forced, together with my team (which doesn’t make profit in any way for the work carried out for the contest), to put an entry fee that allows us to pay for the prizes, the musicians’ travels, the contest’s advertisement (I have to thank for this also friends such as Peter Slavid, Michael Ricci, Nigel J. Farmer, Fernando Rodriguez de Mondesert, who help us a lot – for free! – in promoting the contest), and taxes, which in Italy are very high for any kind of activity.
Finally, to answer your question, the entry fees for this edition were: Pros&Amateurs: 55 Euros for the first video and 30 Euros for each subsequent video. Under25: 20 Euros for the first video and 15 Euros for each subsequent video.
Participants of past editions can pay for one video and send one more for free. In addition, every year we offer wild cards to Under 25 musicians coming from countries suffering economic difficulties (as of this year: China, Italy, North and South Korea, Bulgaria, Spain, Portugal and Ukraine), thanks to which it is possible to send two videos and pay just for one.
LJN: Are you unique and in what ways?
VP: The uniqueness of the contest stands in its being fully online, in having a jury representative of the entire world, and a voting system that leaves solely to jazz experts the power to decide who is the winner. The web community may only decide which is the best from our YouTube channel.
LJN: Have any of your contestants’ videos gone “viral”?
VP: No, but we’ve had various contestants that brought us many entries from their countries. ShekBand (from Ukraine), winner of the honourable mention during the 2019 edition, was one of them.
LJN: What are the prizes?
VP: Our prizes consist of money, live concerts, interviews for jazz magazines and international advertisement. The winner of the Jury Prize for the Pros&Amateurs category wins 1000 Euros, a live concert in Jazz Club Ferrara (together with a professional recording and broadcasting of that concert on major radio stations); an interview for Jazz in Europe and for All About Jazz, together with advertisement on Jazz Groove Radio.
The second ranked musician wins 1000 Euros together with all the benefits above (except for the live concert), and the third ranked musician has its winning track broadcasted on major radios, interviews and advertisement.
For Under 25 musicians we offer, together with the concert and interviews, a one-year contract proposal to the value of 1000 Euros with the German agency Jazz Media and More. Also the second ranked musician wins the possibility to play live at Jazz Club Ferrara, together with a 500 Euros cash prize. The honourable mention is offered by Taklit, a French agency which will provide professional guidance to the winning musician.
LJN: What other benefits could come from entering the contest?
VP: Many musicians have been internationally noticed thanks to our contest and gone on to play in jazz festivals and clubs all over the world. What’s really important to point out is that many times some musicians are selected by producers even though they’ve not won the contest. The contest gave great visibility to David Helbock, an Austrian pianist who, after winning the 2019 edition, had the possibility of playing live in Italy, at the famous Jazz Club Ferrara. Carlos Pascual Cippelletti, an Under 25 spanish pianist who won the 2019 edition, is now producing his album. Yoomni Choi, a South Korean pianist, after the success during the 2016 edition, started a very proficient career in the US. ShekBand, a Ukranian group, is now working with Taklit, a French agency.
LJN: You started in Milan but now it is truly international…
VP: The contest was born to be international. We never had the intention of making it local, since we wanted a “global jam session” sort of thing. Thanks to the voluntary support of many experts in the sector, which believed in our revolutionary idea, we’ve been able to do so. As one of our judges, Dubi Lenz (an Israeli producer and director of jazz festivals), always says, the 7 Virtual Jazz Club Contest represents the only possibility around to listen to musicians of any provenance, while staying comfortably at home.
LJN: We know one of the judges, our writer Peter Slavid from London. Where are the others from? Are the judges the same for each competition?
VP: Some judges that shared our goals and objectives have been with us since the very first edition (2016). Some others were added over the years; each year, half of the jury is usually changed. Together with Peter Slavid, these are the judges of the 2020 edition:
Hrayr Attarian (USA) – journalist for All About Jazz
Peter H. Larsen (Denmark) – journalist and jazz writer
Kornél Zipernovszky (Hungary) – Founder of the Jazz Studies Research Group
Jiaowei Hu (China) – journalist for AAJ
Howard Mandel (USA) – President of the Jazz Journalists Association
Mirian Arbalejo (Spain) – DownBeat Critics Poll and NPR Jazz Critics Poll
Jagadeesh Ramanujam Mudambi (India) – Director of the Bangalore School of Music and musician
Geila Zilkha (Japan) – musician and teacher
Victor Ovchinnikov (Ukraine) – Promoter, music producer
Leonidas Antonopoulos (Greece) – jazz writer
Arnaldo DeSouteiro (Brazil) – Journalist, Jazz & Brazilian Music Historian, Producer, composer
Patricia Johnston (France) – Producer Taklit
Jan Fritz (Germany) – Producer JazzMedia & More
Anna Berglund (Sweden) – Musician, composer, teacher
John Fenton (New Zealand) – Jazz Journalists Association
Gegè Telesforo (Italy) – singer, producer, radio and TV broadcaster
Arthur Satyan (Armenia) – musician and teacher
Fernando Rodriguez de Mondesert (Dominican Republic) – CEO of Jazz en Dominicana – and JJA
Nikos Fotakis (Australia) – jazz journalist
Virgil Mihaiu (Romania) – writer and jazz expert
Nigel J. Farmer (Canada) – CEO of Jazz in Europe
Debbie Mari (South Africa) – singer and piano player
Dubi Lenz (Israel) – Artistic Director Red Sea Jazz Festival
Chris Hodgkins (UK) – Musician, writer, broadcaster
Marcela Breton (Colombia) – JJA
Joe Woodard (USA) – Jazz critic and writer for DownBeat
LJN: And you work with other partners in management in media?
VP: Our main partners, supporting us especially for advertisement, are All About Jazz and Jazz in Europe.
LJN: Has the confinement/lockdown stopped you doing anything ?
VP: Being an online activity, we didn’t suffer major consequences. Of course, it was difficult for some musicians to shoot videos during confinement. Because of this, for this edition, we’ve accepted also videos realised in “multiscreen format”.
LJN: Can you do anything about gender balance?
VP: The contest is open to any musician, of any gender, age, race and nationality.
LJN: Why the name?
VP: 7 Virtual Jazz Club. 7 are the notes, Virtual is the nature.
LJN: What has been your biggest success since you started?
VP: Assessing a higher quality of music year on year. Together with this, the fact of having been accepted by the jazz community and organising live concerts for the winning musicians.
LJN: What stage is the current competition at and when will the next stages be announced?
VP: The jury is currently selecting the best musicians for each group. At the beginning of December we will publish the 50 best videos on our YouTube channel and the complete jury will then evaluate the videos to decide which will be the winners by the start of the new year (January 2021).