How the ASCAP Foundation Inspired Johnny Mandel to Create a Prestigious Prize for Jazz Composers

The ASCAP Foundation recently announced the establishment of the Johnny Mandel Prize to further the career of an aspiring jazz composer who is also a recipient of the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award.

If elements of this announcement sound vaguely familiar, it should come as no surprise. We at IP just looked at recent winners of the 2014 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards, which are given in support of the creation of new jazz works by composers between ages 11 and 29. The awards, originally called the ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Awards, were established in 2002 and were subsequently renamed in Alpert's honor in 2012 after the Alpert Foundation contributed significant funding and a long-term financial commitment.

Which brings us to the creation of the Johnny Mandel Prize, a powerful example of how a foundation can inspire an individual to provide additional recognition to award recipients. Mandel, an ASCAP Foundation Board member, has seen firsthand the positive impact the Herb Alpert Foundation's funding has had on young jazz composers. So as a sign of his support, he helped establish his own prize to provide additional funding and prestige to a jazz composer who has received the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award.

The inaugural winner of the Johnny Mandel Prize is Zac Zinger, a composer, saxophonist, and bandleader based in New York City. Zinger, who won the Alpert prize in both 2012 and 2013, has also written for short and feature-length films and video games. He was selected by a panel of ASCAP jazz composer members that included Anat Cohen, Jay Leonhart, and Wycliffe Gordon. 

Ultimately, the creation of the Johnny Mandel Prize is a case study in success building upon success, illustrating that when you offer aspiring artists a chance to develop their craft, people with a deep interest in the medium will respond. After all, the program started twelve years ago as an ASCAP Foundation award. Then, after the award's success, the Herb Alpert Foundation stepped in a decade later and provided a significant boost in funding, prestige, and financial sustainability. Enter Johnny Mandel, who was sufficiently impressed with the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards that he was willing to put his name and reputation on the line to provide recipients with additional recognition.