The Jann Rutherford Memorial Award (JRMA) is named in honour of the late Jann Rutherford, jazz pianist, composer, teacher, and poet who had been a prominent and unique musical force in Australia and New Zealand. Blind at birth, she died of cancer at the age of 38. The purpose of fundraising is to deliver the 2018 JRMA. This Award is given to a an emerging female jazz musician who shows excellence in performance, improvisation and composition.
The Award is decided through a competitive process where applicants submit a proposal of original compositions for a musical project to record and perform. Nominees are selected by recommendation from senior female music educators and performers. A panel of judges selects a winner to receive the $12,000 Award. In addition they receive a photographic session, assistance with media and promotion and two performances at women’s jazz festivals in Sydney and Melbourne, and recording time at the ABC.
As well as giving important assistance to young musicians at the beginning of their careers, JRMA is playing an important role in redressing the gender imbalance in the field of jazz performance. There has been a marked increase in the number and overall quality of female jazz musicians in Sydney since JRMA began. This is due to a number of factors, but without doubt JRMA is playing an important part in this evolution. All past winners of the Award have unanimously expressed overwhelming enthusiasm for the continuation of the Award, giving many accounts of its significance to them and their band members.
Emma Stephenson, 2016 winner wrote of her experience: “Thank you for facilitating an immensely helpful and productive experience for me. In addition to my musical development, the award has also been a rewarding professional development experience as I have been interviewed by radio hosts, become less camera-shy, and made new connections with people who I am confident I may reach out to in the future.”
The donations are used to fund the project proposed by the selected Award winner. In addition to the $12,000 the recipient receives, donations go towards a photographic session, recording time and administrative costs. The recipient of the award plans and budgets their proposed musical project in conjunction with advice from the Chair of the Award, Dr Sandy Evans OAM and an administrator. An acquittal report is required on completion of the project. All these elements of the award provide a holistic experience of budgeting, planning, implementation and completion of a musical project, including the writing and performing of original compositions.
The Award gives an outstanding emerging young female musician practical skills alongside a musical development opportunity, and confidence to go on to have a career in music, as almost all of the previous recipients have gone on to do.