Finalists and Judges announced for Reading Jazz Talent Competition

By Reading Hockey Club • Apr 21st, 2014 • Category: Home Page, News

THREE finalists have been selected to perform in front of a panel of judges on Thursday 1 May at The Jazz Café, Madejski Stadium in Reading.

Organisers of the Reading Real Ale & Jazz Festival launched a competition at the start of the year to find fresh new talent and for one lucky jazz band or performer, to have the chance to play live at the festival taking place in July.
The finalists performing at the grand final on 1st May are Nicole Johnson, The Mills Tones Dance Band and Stephane Harivelo.

Nicole Johnson is originally from Los Angeles California. Nicole’s musical background hails from the American church gospel tradition. Her earliest performances were to church congregations as a very young child and she later moved on to direct community gospel choirs and gospel music workshops throughout California. ?In 1999, she came to Reading , UK to study English Literature and joined the University of Reading Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Patrick Kelley as its soloist. This led to the beginnings of a jazz solo performance career, which would span England, Los Angeles and Paris. In 2009, Nicole obtained a diploma in jazz vocal performance from Trinity Guildhall London. Nicole lives in Reading with her husband Zaránd and young sons, Peter and Emil.

The Mills Tones Dance Band have been playing the music of the Big Bands for nearly 50 years. Based in Wokingham, Berkshire, they rehearse once a fortnight.

Stephane Harivelo was born and raised in Madagascar. Stephane has naturally developed his own musical style by blending Reaggae and Jazz with a hint of Malagasy tribal feel. Stephane has been living in London for 10 years now and has performed in a wide range of venues including Stratford Royal Theatre Bar, Stratford Circus, the O2 (Angel) and many more. The rawness and sincerity of his live performances are what makes him stand out. Simply accompanied by an acoustic guitar, Stephane writes his own songs which are inspired from personal experiences and everyday life observations.
Along with the audience, three judges will be watching the three finalists perform live. The judges are: BBC Introducing’s Linda Serek, Reading Post’s Caroline Cook and local jazz performer Otis Lawrence.

Linda Serck said: “I’ve been involved with the local music scene for more than 10 years now, and love supporting grass roots acts and giving them that all important leg up. With my BBC Introducing show on BBC Radio Berkshire we support acts who are unsigned, undiscovered or under the radar, so I’m delighted the Reading Real Ale and Jazz Festival has launched this talent search. I’m sure there are many talented jazz acts in our area so I look forward to helping choose a winner!

Caroline Cook said: “I am the features editor of the Reading Post which means I get to explore Reading’s creative side! You can usually find me sitting in the theatre watching one of our talented theatre groups, chatting to local artists, or dancing away to music by local bands. Reading has a great arts community and some fantastic talent and that’s why I’m so excited about judging the Reading Real Ale and Jazz Festival Introducing Competition. I can’t wait to see what our jazz musicians have to offer, bring it on!

Joining Linda and Caroline on the judging panel is Otis Lawrence. Otis is a multi instrumentalist and experienced session musician and has worked with artists such as Celine Dion, Art-Garfunkle and Eternal. Two of his career highlights were his performances for Prince Charles and Nelson Mandela.
Looking after the evening’s proceedings is TV and radio presenter Michael Kurn. Micheal presented last year’s UK Jazz Awards in London.

Tickets can be purchased on the night for £2 with all proceeds going to the festival organisers, Reading Hockey Club. Doors open at 7:30pm and performances start at 8pm. The event is sponsored by the Reading Post and The Jazz Cafe Reading.

More information can be found on the festival’s website, on Twitter at and on Facebook

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