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presented by Keyboard Connection - The Piano Place

Piano Competition

Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Florida Theatre
128 E. Forsyth Street #300, Jacksonville, FL 32202
Doors open at 6 PM • Competition begins at 7 PM
Join us for this free-to-attend event with open general admission seating—no tickets required!

For over thirty years, the Jacksonville Piano Competition presented by Keyboard Connection – The Piano Place has been a cherished tradition at the jazz fest. This event remains one of the most thrilling musical spectacles around!

Five finalists, representing the pinnacle of jazz pianists worldwide, are selected by a blind panel of judges to vie for a cash prize and the opportunity to perform on the Met Park stage presented by Publix at this year’s festival. This intense competition has become a cornerstone of the festival, beloved by many as a chance to witness extraordinary emerging talents in the jazz scene.

Renowned jazz legends like Marcus Roberts, Brian Culbertson, Christian Sands, Jason Miles, Joey Calderazzo, Lynne Arriale, Dr. John, Per Danielsson, John Thomas, and others have graced the judging panel in the past, adding to the prestige and excitement of the event.


  • The Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition is open to any age acoustic jazz pianist who does not currently have or has not previously had a contract with a major record label at the organizer’s discretion. Previous first-place winners of the competition cannot apply. Previous finalists may apply. Finalists participating two consecutive years may not apply the third year.
  • Applicants must be residing in the United states at the time of the competition.


  1. First Place Winner $5,000
  2. Second Place Winner $2,000
  3. Third Place Winner $1,000

In addition to the award, the competition winner will perform on Saturday of the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Performance by the winner on this day is required, as the cash award will be provided at the conclusion of the performance. Each finalist will also receive two complimentary VIP Jacksonville Jazz Festival passes.


Brendon Davis

Brendon Davis is a recording artist, composer, teacher, and arranger. Merging his love for classical music, jazz-trained chops, roots in R&B and gospel, he weaves between the genres in performances for all audiences. Since his debut in 2011 at the Gospel Fest in Hart Plaza Detroit, his artistry has taken him throughout the United States, winning competitions and even performances in venues such as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Kennedy Center, the Kimmel Center, Hill Auditorium, Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre, SF Black Cat, Corson Auditorium, and Disneyland Park. His performance credits include: the 2019 Disney All American College Band, the 2021-2023 Summer Solstice Jazz Festival and the 2020-2022 Detroit Jazz Festival. He has studied with world-renowned pianists and artists such as Chick Corea, Benny Green, Bob Hurst, Rodney Whitaker, Andy Mine, Roger Jones, Ellen Rowe, Tamir Hendelman, Bill Moss, Jr., and the late Alonza McKenzie. He is a 2-time national NAACP ACT-SO winner in the categories of Music Instrumental Contemporary and Music Composition. In addition, he has appeared on multiple albums and been a part of numerous projects. In 2020, he was commissioned to write a piece for the black women led multi-recording string group, Musique Noire. Their album, Intergenerational, which features Brendon doubling as composer and pianist on his piece “Annalise’s Power”, was nominated for a 2023 Detroit Music Award. On March 31st, he released his first debut single entitled, “I’m Done Hiding” detailing the realization to step into his purpose.

Gavin Allen-Dunn

Gavin Allen-Dunn is a doctoral student in jazz piano and organ at the University of Northern Colorado, primarily studying with Dana Landry. Throughout his career he has had the privilege of sharing a stage with many legendary guest artists such as Carmen Bradford, Joshua Redman, Ryan Keberle, Paquito D’Rivera, and countless others while also being hired to play alongside Jason Marsalis at the esteemed Dazzle jazz club and playing Hammond organ with the Colorado Symphony. Gavin’s influences come from a variety of artists and genres, with his favorites being Bobby Timmons, Brad Mehldau, Bill Evans, Larry Goldings, Stevie Wonder, and Joni Mitchell. Recently he has been featured on several albums including “Solidarity” by Zach Rich featuring Shane Endsley, “It Comes in Waves” by Denin Slage-Koch featuring Ryan Keberle and Shane Endlsey, as well as playing organ on “No Second Guessing” by Andrew Janak featuring Brian Scarborough. Gavin serves as JEN president for the University of Northern Colorado and seeks to inspire younger jazz students through his own teaching and playing as well as masterclasses with modern jazz legends in order to keep the tradition of this music alive.

Jenny Xu

Jenny Xu (b.1996) is a Canadian pianist, composer, and educator currently based in New York City. She is an alumna of the Manhattan School of Music (MM ’19, summa cum laude), Berklee College of Music (BM ’16, summa cum laude), as well as the Royal Conservatory of Music (ARCT ‘13, with honors). In addition to regular appearances as both a leader and sideman on the NYC jazz scene, she presently serves on the faculties of several distinguished institutions such as the Stanford Jazz Workshop, Calhoun School, Larchmont Music Academy, and Smith School of Music. In 2023 alone, Jenny was a semifinalist in the prestigious Herbie Hancock Institute International Jazz Piano Competition (formerly Thelonious Monk Piano Competition), Rubato International Piano Competition, Next Jazz Legacy Fellowship cohort, and Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition (formerly Great American Jazz Piano Competition).

Best known for her work with her brain-child trio: Friendship, Jenny’s group boasts two critically acclaimed tours and two albums of her original music: Project Sock Retrieval (October 2020) and Ghost Stories (February 2021). Throughout her career, she has had the immense privilege of receiving mentorship from Fred Hersch, Aaron Goldberg, Buster Williams, Ingrid Jensen, George Garzone, Eddie Gomez, Dayna Stephens, Kendrick Scott, Dave Liebman, Paquito D’Rivera, and Arturo O’Farrill. As a performer, Jenny has shared the stage with the likes of Buster Williams, George Garzone, and Cándido Camero and has opened for jazz greats such as Herbie Hancock and Harold Mabern.

Ross Margitza

Dr. Ross Margitza is a pianist, trumpeter, composer, arranger, and educator. As a young musician, he studied with his father and grandfather, who were professional pianists in the city of Detroit, Michigan. Ross started playing piano at six years old and trumpet at age ten. He decided he wanted to become a jazz musician after listening to the recording “West Side Story,” by pianist Oscar Peterson.

Ross performed internationally in Japan, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Spain, and Canada. He also performed in various cities all over the United States including Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., and New York. Ross was selected as the Director of Instrumental Music at Flintridge Preparatory Schoollocated just north of Los Angeles, and served from 2017-2022. He currently resides in Austin, TX and is the Director of Instrumental Music at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School and also serves as the Jazz Piano Professor at Huston-Tillotson University.

Yae-Seul Kim

Pianist and composer Srisley was born in South Korea and raised in a musical environment under the guidance of her mother, a classical pianist, her aunt, a violinist, and her grandmother, a high school music teacher. At the age of 11, she made her debut on the piano solo segment of KBS with Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu. Upon hearing Michel Camilo’s music, she was profoundly inspired, leading her to pursue a major in jazz piano. In 2020, she released her first full-length album, Srisley Trio: 30, featuring compositions and performances exclusively by her. Inspired by both traditional and contemporary music, she continues to create works in her distinctive style, ensuring a legacy of musical excellence. Recently, she was selected as a composer for Career Jam, Berklee’s annual large-scale event, and will perform her song “Cucaracha” at the Berklee Performance Center on April 5th.

2024 Master of Ceremonies & Rhythm Section

Noel Freidline

Master of Ceremonies

John Lumpkin II


Dennis Marks