Society Column: Jazz pianists impress APA sponsors at Ozdemir estate


The American Pianists Association’s (APA) Music Matters was held at the home of Izabela Ozdemir and her husband, Ersal Ozdemir on Sept. 28.  The event was catered by Prime 47.  Four of the five Cole Porter Jazz Fellowship finalists performed, as did surprise guest pianist, Sean Chen, the current APA Classical Fellow.

Music Matters is a series held in private homes, featuring guest artists and lecturers, and is exclusively for major sponsors. The four APA finalists who performed were: Christian Sands, Kris Bowers, Emmet Cohen and Zach Lapidus. The fifth finalist, Sullivan Fortner, was unable to attend due to touring in South Africa. Regarding the ultimate winner, Joel Harrison, President and Artistic Director of APA explained, “The winner of this competition receives a prize valued at $100,000, the largest in the world for a young jazz musician.”

Each musician brought unique interpretations to his performance. In his career, Christian Sands has performed twice at the Grammys, including a duet with the legendary Oscar Peterson. At age 20, he was nominated for two Grammys for best Latin Jazz Piano Solo. Sands has released three albums to date.

Kris Bowers earned an undergraduate and a master’s degrees in jazz performance from Juilliard. In 2011, he won first place in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. That same year, he contributed keyboard tracks for the Kanye West/Jay-Z collaboration Watch he Throne.  In 2014, he released his debut album Heroes + Misfits.

At 24, jazz pianist Emmet Cohen has become one of the most in-demand musicians in New York.   He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, where he studied with the esteemed Shelly Berg.  In 2011, he won third place in the Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition. His debut album, In the Element, has received international critical acclaim.

Zach Lapidus, now based in Brooklyn, called Indiana home for several years. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Indiana University’s Jacob’s School of Music in 2008. He travels internationally and has been featured on NPR’s Jazz Set with Dee Dee Bridgewater. Zach is also a long standing collaborator with Frank Glover. The duo of Zach Lapidus and Frank Glover were featured on the American Public Television documentary Take 2.

Although Sullivan Fortner was unable to attend, his credentials mark him as a highly accomplished jazz musician. Originally from New Orleans, Fortner holds a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin Conservatory of Music and a Master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music. His music can be found on eight albums.

For information about the competition finals and other upcoming performances, contact the American Pianists Association (APA) at:

Tonya Burton is the Current’s social scene columnist. You may contact her at

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