Elmhurst College student Thomas Zimny has been named a Jazz Fellow by the Luminarts Cultural Foundation as part of the foundation’s 2014 Jazz Improvisation Competition.
A senior jazz studies major and baritone saxophone player, Zimny was one of only five musicians to receive the honor, which includes a $5,000 grant award and a Luminarts Fellowship. The winners were recognized at a ceremony on February 12 at Buddy Guy’s Legends in downtown Chicago.
To win the award, Zimny participated in a February 5 competition at the Union League Club of Chicago, where he was up against top musicians from high-ranking music schools across the area; three of the four other winners are graduate students in jazz and composition studies at DePaul University.
Founded in 1949 as the Union League Civic and Arts Foundation, the Luminarts Foundation supports young musicians, visual artists and writers through events, competitions and grant opportunities throughout the year. Over the years, the foundation has provided key support to a number of Elmhurst College students.
Zimny attributes his win to the extensive performance experience he’s had in nearly four years as a member of the College’s Jazz Band.
”Being in the band, I’ve learned how to become a professional musician. I understand the high standard that’s required,” he said.
Doug Beach, director of the Jazz Band and the College’s jazz studies program, said the Jazz Fellows award was a high honor. “Tom’s obviously talented, but he’s also very dedicated and works really hard,” Beach explained. “We’re a small institution, so to have our students get this type of recognition shows that what we do here, we do really well.”
Zimny was invited to participate in the 2014 Jazz Improvisation Competition after earning an honorable mention at a Luminarts competition last year. In addition to the cash award, the fellowship provides access to mentorship opportunities, workshops, lectures and the chance to apply for additional scholarships and grants.
Zimney said he’s “thankful for what the grant money allows” and hopes to pay it forward in his career. After he graduates from Elmhurst, he plans to pursue an advanced degree in New York and then pursue a career in music as a teacher and performer.
Meanwhile, he’s enjoying the new community he’s discovered through his fellowship. At the Jazz Fellows awards ceremony on February 12, he performed with professional musicians from around the city.
”It was fantastic just being there and getting to share that moment with the house band and the other winners,” he said. ”This whole experience has been amazing.”