NEA Jazz Masters

Make a Nomination

National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters logo

The National Endowment for the Arts 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 Arts Endowment 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 Arts Endowment 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 an Arts Endowment 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 a 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.
  • Self-nominations are not accepted.
  • Nominations remain active for a total of five years unless a nominee is selected for a 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. Materials that are emailed, mailed, or faxed cannot be accepted.
  • Upload the two required documents (a nomination letter and a resume or biographical sketch in PDF file format) below. The file size limit for each document is 1 MB.
  • Nominations missing either the nomination letter or the biographical sketch or resume will be not be considered.
  • Nominations missing the nominator’s name and contact information will be rejected.
  • These two items – submitted as uploads - are required:
  1. A one-page nomination letter:
    • Describe the reasons why 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.  You must include your full name and contact information (email address and preferred phone number) in the letter.
  2. A resume or a biographical sketch outlining the nominee’s career (not to exceed two pages).

Nomination Deadline

Online nominations may be made at any time throughout the year. However, if you wish to have your nomination considered for the 2022 NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship round, it must be received by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on October 30, 2020. Fellowship recipients will be announced in 2021.

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 Fellowship recipients.

Agency Contact:

NEA Jazz Masters Fellowships
National Endowment for the Arts
Katja von Schuttenbach (202) 682-5711 or

NEA Jazz Masters


Dorthaan Kirk, Bobby McFerrin, Roscoe Mitchell, Reggie Workman


Stanley Crouch, Bob Dorough, Abdullah Ibrahim, Maria Schneider


Todd Barkan, Joanne Brackeen, Pat Metheny, Dianne Reeves


Dee Bridgewater, Ira Gitler, Dave Holland, Dick Hyman, Dr. Lonnie Smith


Gary Burton, Wendy Oxenhorn, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp


Carla Bley, George Coleman, Charles Lloyd, Joe Segal


Jamey Aebersold, Anthony Braxton, Richard Davis, Keith Jarrett


Mose Allison, Lou Donaldson, Lorraine Gordon, Eddie Palmieri


Jack DeJohnette, Von Freeman, Charlie Haden, Sheila Jordan,
Jimmy Owens


Orrin Keepnews, Hubert Laws, David Liebman, Johnny Mandel,
The Marsalis Family (Ellis Jr., Wynton, Delfeayo, Jason, Branford)


Muhal Richard Abrams, George Avakian, Kenny Barron, Bill Holman,
Bobby Hutcherson, Yusef Lateef, Annie Ross, Cedar Walton


George Benson, Jimmy Cobb, Lee Konitz, Toots Thielemans,
Rudy Van Gelder, Snooky Young


Candido Camero, Andrew Hill, Quincy Jones, Tom McIntosh,
Gunther Schuller, Joe Wilder


Toshiko Akiyoshi, Curtis Fuller, Ramsey Lewis, Dan Morgenstern,
Jimmy Scott, Frank Wess, Phil Woods


Ray Barretto, Tony Bennett, Bob Brookmeyer, Chick Corea,
Buddy DeFranco, Freddie Hubbard, John Levy


Kenny Burrell, Paquito D'Rivera, Slide Hampton, Shirley Horn,
Artie Shaw, Jimmy Smith, George Wein


Jim Hall, Chico Hamilton, Herbie Hancock, Luther Henderson, Nancy Wilson, Nat Hentoff


Jimmy Heath, Elvin Jones, Abbey Lincoln


Frank Foster, Percy Heath, McCoy Tyner


John Lewis, Jackie McLean, Randy Weston


David Baker, Donald Byrd, Marian McPartland


Dave Brubeck, Art Farmer, Joe Henderson


Ron Carter, James Moody, Wayne Shorter


Billy Higgins, Milt Jackson, Anita O'Day


Tommy Flanagan, J.J. Johnson, Benny Golson


Ray Brown, Roy Haynes, Horace Silver


Louie Bellson, Ahmad Jamal, Carmen McRae


Milt Hinton, Jon Hendricks, Joe Williams


Betty Carter, Dorothy Donegan, Harry "Sweets" Edison


Danny Barker, Buck Clayton, Andy Kirk, Clark Terry


George Russell, Cecil Taylor, Gerald Wilson


Barry Harris, Hank Jones, Sarah Vaughan


Art Blakey, Lionel Hampton, Billy Taylor


Cleo Patra Brown, Melba Liston, Jay McShann


Benny Carter, Dexter Gordon, Teddy Wilson


Gil Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Jonathan "Jo" Jones


Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, Max Roach


Count Basie, Kenneth Clarke, Sonny Rollins


Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, Sun Ra