Make a Nomination

The NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship is the highest honor that our nation bestows upon jazz musicians. Each year since 1982, the program has elevated to its ranks a select number of living legends who have made exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz.

The Arts Endowment will honor musicians who represent a range of styles and instruments. In addition, one fellowship -- the A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship for Jazz Advocacy -- will be given to an individual who has made major contributions to the appreciation, knowledge, and advancement of the American jazz art form. In 2006, this award was designated in honor of A. B. Spellman, a jazz writer, accomplished poet, innovative arts administrator, and former NEA Deputy Chairman, who has dedicated much of his life to bringing the joy and artistry of jazz to all Americans.

The NEA Jazz Masters Fellowships are awarded to living individuals on the basis of nominations from the public including members of the jazz community. The NEA encourages nominations of a broad range of men and women who have been significant to the field of jazz through vocal and instrumental performance, creative leadership, and education. Successful nominees will demonstrate significant contribution to the art form through their body of work in the field of jazz.

Important Information for Nominators:

  • Nominees must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States.
  • Nominations of deceased individuals will not be considered.
  • Individuals who have previously received a NEA lifetime honor award (National Heritage Fellowship, or an Opera Honor) are not eligible for an NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship.
  • Individuals who have previously received the National Medal of Arts are eligible for an NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship.
  • Awards will be up to $25,000 and may be received once in a lifetime.
  •  Nominators may submit one or more nomination(s) each year.
  • Only complete nomination files (including nomination letter and resume or biography) can be considered.
  • “Petition drives” for any one nominee are not acceptable. Only one submission is needed to get an individual nominated.
  • No one may nominate him/herself.
  • Nominations remain active for a total of five years unless a nominee is selected for the NEA Jazz Masters honor or passes away.
  • No payment will be made to the estate or heirs of a deceased recipient.

How to Submit a Nomination

Nominations must be submitted online using the online nomination form. Materials that are emailed, mailed or faxed will not be considered for review.

These two attachments are required to complete your online nomination package:

  1. A one-page nomination letter describing the reasons your nominee should receive an NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship. Briefly state or list the nominee’s contributions to the field of jazz and explain why he or she deserves this national recognition. Bullet point format is acceptable for the listing of achievements. Use letterhead stationery or include your contact information on the letter.
  2. A resume or a biographical sketch outlining the nominee’s career. Not to exceed two pages.

Upload the nomination letter and resume or biography in PDF or Word files below. Each attachment file size limit is 1 MB.

Nomination Deadline

Online nominations must be received by 11:59 p.m. (ET) November 30, 2017. Fellowship recipients will be announced in 2018.

Nomination Review

Selection criteria:

  1. In the performers category: The artistic excellence and significance of a nominee’s contributions to the development and performance of jazz.
  2. In the jazz advocate category: The artistic merit of a nominee’s contributions to the appreciation, knowledge, and advancement of jazz.

Nominations are reviewed by an advisory panel of jazz experts and at least one knowledgeable layperson. Panel recommendations are forwarded to the National Council on the Arts, which then makes recommendations to the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Chairman reviews the Council's recommendations and makes the final decision on all award recipients.

NEA Jazz Masters

2018: Todd Barkan, Joanne Brackeen, Pat Metheny, Dianne Reeves
2017: Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ira Gitler, Dave Holland, Dick Hyman, Dr. Lonnie Smith
2016: Gary Burton, Wendy Oxenhorn, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp
2015: Carla Bley, George Coleman, Charles Lloyd, Joe Segal
2014: Jamey Aebersold, Anthony Braxton, Richard Davis, Keith Jarrett
2013: Mose Allison, Lou Donaldson, Lorraine Gordon, Eddie Palmieri
2012: Jack DeJohnette, Von Freeman, Charlie Haden, Sheila Jordan,
Jimmy Owens
2011: Orrin Keepnews, Hubert Laws, David Liebman, Johnny Mandel,
The Marsalis Family (Ellis Jr., Wynton, Delfeayo, Jason, Branford)
2010: Muhal Richard Abrams, George Avakian, Kenny Barron, Bill Holman,
Bobby Hutcherson, Yusef Lateef, Annie Ross, Cedar Walton
2009: George Benson, Jimmy Cobb, Lee Konitz, Toots Thielemans,
Rudy Van Gelder, Snooky Young
2008: Candido Camero, Andrew Hill, Quincy Jones, Tom McIntosh,
Gunther Schuller, Joe Wilder
2007: Toshiko Akiyoshi, Curtis Fuller, Ramsey Lewis, Dan Morgenstern,
Jimmy Scott, Frank Wess, Phil Woods
2006: Ray Barretto, Tony Bennett, Bob Brookmeyer, Chick Corea,
Buddy DeFranco, Freddie Hubbard, John Levy
2005: Kenny Burrell, Paquito D'Rivera, Slide Hampton, Shirley Horn,
Artie Shaw, Jimmy Smith, George Wein
2004: Jim Hall, Chico Hamilton, Herbie Hancock, Luther Henderson, Nancy Wilson, Nat Hentoff
2003: Jimmy Heath, Elvin Jones, Abbey Lincoln
2002: Frank Foster, Percy Heath, McCoy Tyner
2001: John Lewis, Jackie McLean, Randy Weston
2000: David Baker, Donald Byrd, Marian McPartland
1999: Dave Brubeck, Art Farmer, Joe Henderson
1998: Ron Carter, James Moody, Wayne Shorter
1997: Billy Higgins, Milt Jackson, Anita O'Day
1996: Tommy Flanagan, J.J. Johnson, Benny Golson
1995: Ray Brown, Roy Haynes, Horace Silver
1994: Louie Bellson, Ahmad Jamal, Carmen McRae
1993: Milt Hinton, Jon Hendricks, Joe Williams
1992: Betty Carter, Dorothy Donegan, Harry "Sweets" Edison
1991: Danny Barker, Buck Clayton, Andy Kirk, Clark Terry
1990: George Russell, Cecil Taylor, Gerald Wilson
1989: Barry Harris, Hank Jones, Sarah Vaughan
1988: Art Blakey, Lionel Hampton, Billy Taylor
1987: Cleo Patra Brown, Melba Liston, Jay McShann
1986: Benny Carter, Dexter Gordon, Teddy Wilson
1985: Gil Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Jonathan "Jo" Jones
1984: Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, Max Roach
1983: Count Basie, Kenneth Clarke, Sonny Rollins
1982: Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, Sun Ra

Agency Contact

Katja von Schuttenbach
Jazz Specialist
202/682-5711 or

April 2017