UT alumna wins 2018 ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award

March 16, 2018 | Arts, News, UToday, Alumni, Arts and Letters
By Angela Riddel

Estar Cohen, of the Estar Cohen Project and a 2015 alumna of The University of Toledo Music Department, is one of 15 recipients of the ASCAP Foundation’s 2018 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards.

The program, which was established in 2002 to encourage young gifted jazz composers up to the age of 30, is named in honor of the trumpeter/composer/bandleader in recognition of the Herb Alpert Foundation’s multi-year financial commitment to support this program. Additional funding is provided by the ASCAP Foundation Bart Howard Fund.

Estar Cohen performed as a student with the UT Vocalstra Ensemble at the 2013 UT Holiday Jazz Concert in Doermann Theatre.

The recipients, who receive cash awards, range in age from 14 to 29, and are selected through a juried national competition. The ASCAP composers/judges for the 2018 competition were Sylvie Courvoisier, Wycliffe Gordon and Sachal Vasandani.

In addition, one of the recipients of the Herb Alpert Awards will be featured during the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival in August. Read more about the winners here.

Cohen is a vocalist, lyricist, composer and educator based in Ypsilanti, Mich.

She graduated with a bachelor of music degree in jazz performance from the University, where she studied voice, improvisation and composition with pianist Tad Weed, guitarist Jay Weik and Jon Hendricks, the father of vocalese and former UT Distinguished Professor of Jazz, who called her lyrics “beautiful.”

Some highlights over the course of her four years include recording her first album, “Waiting for Dawn”; lyricizing the instrumental pieces of late jazz pianist Herbie Nichols for Weed’s Freedom Ensemble; putting on clinics and concerts with her jazz quintet Talking Ear at numerous southern Michigan universities; and exploring the art of free improvisation and improvised poetry with Weik.

In 2015, she was chosen as a finalist in the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards and in 2014, she was given the Craig’s Keyboard Student Composer Award for her original vocal ensemble composition, “The Day the Government Shut Down.”

Since her graduation, she has traveled as a performer and educator throughout the Midwest and to major cities, including New York and Chicago. She has performed alongside renowned musicians, including Hendricks, Weed, Peter Eldridge, Pete Siers, David Bixler, Vinny Golia and Ken Filiano. Notable performances include New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall, the Earthwork Harvest Gathering, Ann Arbor’s Edgefest at Kerrytown Concert House, and Michigan’s River Street Anthology Project.

Cohen is an avid writer, penning lyrics for Midwest jazz artists, including Weed, Travis Aukerman, Dan Palmer and Benjamin Maloney. Her poetry has been published in Ohio Anthology, Bards Again 2016 and Khroma Magazine.

As an educator, she has taught songwriting with Michigan label Earthwork Music in partnership with the nonprofit SEEDS and is a private music instructor in the Ann Arbor area.

Cohen was featured in the March UT Alumni eMagazine; read more here.

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