Winners have been announced for the 2023 BroadwayWorld Pittsburgh Awards! The 2023 Regional Awards honor regional productions, touring shows, and more which had their first performance between October 1, 2022 through September 30, 2023. This year the BroadwayWorld Regional Awards were bigger and better than ever, including over 100 cities across America, Canada, Central and South America, Europe, and Asia! Billy Strayhorn: ‘Something To Live For’, took top honors for best new play or musical.

Something to Live For had its world premier at Pittsburgh’s historic O’Reilly Theater September 19th thru October 11th, 2023. STLF illuminated the classically trained, Homewood-raised Billy Strayhorn’s life as an out, gay Black man, from his impoverished childhood to Westinghouse High School to his career as an innovator in the world of jazz along with his longtime collaborator, another iconic figure, Duke Ellington. They would go on to create some of the world’s most beloved jazz works, with Strayhorn taking the lead as arranger and composer. Those include Lush Life, written when Billy was a teenager, Satin Doll, Something to Live For and the song that became Ellington’s signature, Take the ‘A’ Train.

Channeling Strayhorn’s jazz genius, Broadway veteran Darius de Haas kicked off a tour-de-force performance and an immediate opening of the floodgates pouring out songs, dance and history by an exuberant and celebratory cast that was nothing short of outstanding. Congratulations to all for this major world premier achievement. We will certainly be hearing more of just where this 1st class production lands…

Mariia Kovalenko is a freshman who came to Boston from her home in Moscow, Russia to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music. While she wants to major in piano composition, hoping to work behind the scenes and writing her own music, Mariia was the winner among 11 participants at Berklee of the Billy Strayhorn Jazz Education Scholarship for excellence in piano and jazz composition. The inspiration for participating in the competition was that she loves Strayhorn’s music. “His music is very original. I love what he does with harmonization. It’s like things I never heard before.” Besides Strayhorn, Mariia is a fan of music written by Bill Evans and the classical composer Ravel (who Strayhorn also loved). When asked for advice she would give younger, aspiring musicians, Mariia said…”when I was 12 years old, I was about to stop. I had to learn not to feel so stressed, not to be so nervous. You have to learn to grow and put your heart into the music. Show yourself and just learn to be you.” Mariia is obviously a rising star we will hear more from. Sincere congratulations to Mariia and all of the competition participants. The future of Jazz shines bright.

2024 started off the15th annual Jazz Education Network Conference (JEN) in the great city of New Orleans. Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc. and the Billy Strayhorn Foundation participated for the 12th year as an exhibitor in the JEN conference. Attended by 3,000 plus students, jazz artists and jazz educators, the 2024 JEN conference proved to be a memorable experience, filled with opportunities for learning, fellowship with old friends and network opportunities with new ones. The conference was assembled with a stellar lineup of world class clinics, research presentations and exclusive concert performances. Among those performing were New Orleans legends The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the Preservation Hall Legacy Band, trumpeters Terell Stafford and Sean Jones, Saxophonists Tia Fuller and Don Braden, bassists John Clayton and Kris Monson, singers Carmen Bradford and Dee Daniels plus many more…

The Strayhorn exhibitor booth was again well received, providing great in depth information on the music, life and legacy of Billy Strayhorn, as well as providing a suggested list of materials to help with having a robust Billy Strayhorn curriculum for your jazz studies program. A nice raffle of items that are available at the online merchandising store on the website were given away to several lucky recipients. We are already looking forward to the 2025 JEN conference, which will be held in Atlanta. See you there!