2022 Future Jazz Masters Award results in first-ever tie

Published: 04.27.2022
Ben Turner

The BMI Foundation has awarded a first-ever tie for the Seventh Annual BMI Future Jazz Master Award. Argentina native and New School alum Cler Diaz will share the prize with Michigan State University's Ben Turner. The $5,000 prize was announced as part of BMI's celebration of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Fellows and April's Jazz Appreciation Month. GRAMMY Award-winner and Artistic Director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, Terri Lynn Carrington served as this year's finalist judge. 

The BMI Future Jazz Master Award is an annual competition for rising jazz stars pursuing an academic degree in jazz studies. The award was established by BMI in 2015 in honor of the NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship, a lifetime achievement recognition program widely considered to be the highest honor in jazz music, and pays tribute to the artistic excellence of jazz pioneers while providing crucial support for an emerging artist. The winners are selected by a NEA Jazz Master judge or judges based on evidence of talent and potential as a jazz performer and composer. 


Cler Diaz is a Jazz vocalist and songwriter. She started her career at the Catholic University of Argentina in Buenos Aires, doing a major in Film Scoring and production. Later on she decided to dive into jazz performance and songwriting. So she got accepted and transferred to The New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. During the pandemic she lived and recorded amongst talented musicians at the Jazz campus of Basel, Switzerland. This gave her the possibility to explore her inclinations towards music and expand her aspirations. It was also where she wrote and arranged Sometimes I dream, alongside the double-bass player Sebastián de Urquiza. She fell instantly for Jazz when she was 14 years old and discovered Bill Evans, Count Basie, Esperanza Spalding, Gretchen Parlato, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and George Benson just to name a few… but she is deeply inspired from her cultural roots and different genres too; such as rock, R&B, folklore, pop, and latin music. Cler has also been awarded with the 2021 Gifted Tuition Scholarship from the Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation. An opportunity that helped her move to the epicenter of American Jazz culture, New York. Where she’s learning, performing and gaining experience with musicians she admires. Pursuing her main goal; to become a whole artist, creator and communicator.

Guitarist Ben Turner is a native of Southern New Jersey but was lucky to have had his formative musical education in Philadelphia during his studies at Temple University. Being surrounded with fantastic musicians from peers to elders, as well as being immersed in Philadelphia’s rich black musical heritage helped Ben develop a deep passion for jazz music. In addition, studying withfaculty such as Terell Stafford, Tim Warfield, Dick Oatts, and Peter Bernstein, helped form Ben’s identity as a musician and human being. Those lessons stressed the importance of striving to be a good person to be a good musician. Ben’s relationships built during that time facilitate opportunities to play with and be mentored by Jasper Blom, Byron Landham, Mike Boone, Larry McKenna, Behn Gillece, Joe Magnarelli, John Swana, and more. Ben is currently pursuing a master’s degree in jazz studies at Michigan State University as a graduate assistant under the tutelage of Randy Napoleon and Rodney Whitaker.Ben is also an active composer and educator who has taught privately and for organizations such as Jazz at Lincoln Center and the COTA Jazz Festival. He has also participated in jazz programs such as Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead (2018), JAS Academy (2020), and most recently the Brevard Jazz Institute (2021). In addition, Ben won the 2022 U.S. Army Blues Solo Competition (Collegiate Division) and was a semi-finalist in the 2019 Wilson Center Jazz Guitar Competition and the 2022 UNISA International Strings Competition.