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Wellington Jazz Festival announces four exciting jazz commission opportunities

Job details

2020 Wellington Jazz Festival
3 Jul 2020
National, Wellington
Work type
Awards, grants & residencies
Work classification
Music, Pasifika, Toi Maori


Calling composers: Wellington Jazz Festival announces four exciting jazz commission opportunities

Jazz-lovers will get the chance to hear fresh new music by Aotearoa jazz composers at the re-scheduled 2020 Wellington Jazz Festival, 1822 November.

Today the Festival opened a call for four Kiwi composers to create new music to be premiered at the Festival at a series of live gigs.

The Wellington Jazz Festival was originally planned for early June but was cancelled because of the pandemic. Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on many of the Festival’s regular music venues, bars and eateries and for musicians and technicians across the region and country. In response, the Festival has reshaped its planned programme, shifting it to Spring, and is putting its resource and energy into ‘loving local’ - bringing audiences the finest homegrown jazz live in Wellington’s best music spots.

Creative Director Marnie Karmelita: “The Wellington Jazz Festival is a major date for local musicians and our music and hospitality venues, so we wanted to get up and running again as soon as possible. Supporting local artists and bringing music and people back to our local venues is our priority.

As well as playing at the Festival, one way we can support artists is to invest in them to create new music. This year we’re providing an increased number of composition and performance opportunities for Aotearoa-New Zealand jazz composers and musicians. We can’t wait for Wellingtonians and domestic visitors to the capital to join us for the results. Coming together to experience great music and Wellington’s famous hospitality will be a particularly special experience this Festival as we regenerate as a City and sector from the impact of Covid-19.

Made possible by support from Creative New Zealand and Todd Corporation, the Festival will provide a fee of between $10,000 and $12,500 each to four composers to create a new piece of jazz music that will premiere at the Wellington Jazz Festival in November. The Festival supports and celebrates the sounds of Aotearoa, and at least one commission will be awarded to a Māori composer.

Wellington-based composer and saxophonist Jasmine Lovell Smith was delighted to hear about this opportunity for fellow artists and reflects on her experience composing for the 2019 Festival: “I was privileged to be commissioned to compose two new works which were performed by the Montreal-based CODE quartet in 2019. Jazz commissions are almost unheard of in New Zealand, and so this was a rare and valuable opportunity and landmark achievement in my career thus far.”

Submissions for composers are open now and close Friday 3 July. The Festival will open its programme for local gigs shortly and the full programme is due to be launched in September 2020.

How to apply


The Wellington Jazz Festival, an annual five-day festival of jazz music in Wellington, is commissioning four new jazz works by New Zealand composers to celebrate Aotearoa-New Zealand musicians at a reshaped event taking place from 1822 November. The impact of Covid-19 on international touring means this series of World Premiere commissions is at the heart of the 2020 Wellington Jazz Festival programme, a true celebration of the sounds and talents of Aotearoa.

We are holding a Zoom info session about the commissioning process on Tuesday 16 June at 1pm.
Email info@jazzfestival.co.nz to register.

There Are Four Commissions Available:

  • 2 x commissions of $10,000 for compositions between 1-5 instruments.
  • 2 x commissions of $12,500 for compositions between 6-9 instruments.
  • At least one commission will be awarded to a Māori composer.
  • Instruments may include voice.
  • Commissions will be selected by a panel of jazz experts, Te Tairāwhiti Festival Director and composer Tama Waipara and Tāwhiri and Wellington Jazz Festival Creative Director, Marnie Karmelita.

You are not required to submit the composition when applying. If your application is successful the final composition is due 28 September.

Entry Criteria:

  • The compositions should feature improvisation. Hybrid genres and experimentation across form and instrumentation are encouraged.
  • Compositions must be new original material and may be one full work or multiple shorter works.
  • Each commission should be between 15 - 20 minutes. We note that lengths may vary in performance due to improvisation.
  • Composers may write for specific New Zealand-based musicians and the Wellington Jazz Festival will endeavour to secure them (subject to availability, budget, government restrictions).
  • Composers may compose for themselves or ensembles they perform in.
  • Composers must be New Zealand citizens or permanent residents who are New Zealand-based and currently living in the country. The composer must be present in Wellington at the premiere of the work (scheduled for 1822 November 2020).
  • Compositions may be collaborative. The lead composer must be currently living in New Zealand. All collaborators to be paid from the awarded commission fee.
  • The composer must cover reasonable costs of music score (copying and printing etc.)

Submissions must be received via our online form by Friday 3 July 2020, 5pm. Any submissions received after this date will not be considered.


Submissions open: Thursday 4 June 2020
Zoom info session: Thursday 16 June, 1pm
Submissions close: Friday 3 July, 5pm
Results notified: Monday 13 July
Successful Composers will submit the final score for their composition to Wellington Jazz Festival by: Monday 28 September
2020 Wellington Jazz Festival live performance: between 1822 November

Online Form Submission Requirements:
To apply click here, a summary of the submission requirements are below.

Provide a written proposal for the commission outlining:

  • What – description of project, its artistic inspiration, themes, innovative elements and ambition.
  • How – briefly describe the creative composition process, include collaborators (if any), and a timeline.
  • Presentation and players – briefly describe how you envisage the presentation of the piece(s), including any New Zealand ensembles or musicians you wish to perform the piece(s) and ideal staging requirements.
  • Future opportunities – if applicable, describe any future opportunities you foresee for the piece(s) after the Wellington Jazz Festival.
  • Bio for yourself and your collaborators (if applicable) that demonstrate a track record of experience and success.
  • Demos or links to recordings of your previous works (15 min max).
  • Supporting material.
  • 1-2 letters of recommendation.
  • Scores (optional).

    Find out more and apply at https://www.jazzfestival.nz/get-involved/ 

Written by

New Zealand Festival

8 Jun 2020

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