Second Annual BMI Future Jazz Master Scholarship Winner Announced

Published: 04.11.2016

Above: Pictured (L-R): BMI Foundation President Deirdre Chadwick, 2016 NEA Jazz Masters Archie Shepp and Wendy Oxenhorn, 2016 BMI Future Jazz Master Scholarship winner Chris Otts, 2016 NEA Jazz Masters Gary Burton and Pharoah Sanders, and BMI Future Jazz Master Scholarship Director Pat Cook.

Photo by: Shannon Finney

Pat Cook, BMI Foundation Board Member and Director of the BMI Future Jazz Master Scholarship, has announced Chris Otts as the winner of the second annual competition for the award. The $5,000 scholarship was presented on Sunday, April 3rd, 2016 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. as part of the NEA Jazz Masters Awards Dinner, sponsored by Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) in celebration of this year’s NEA Jazz Masters honorees. Otts, a master’s degree candidate in Jazz Studies at Georgia State University, was chosen as the winner by a panel of NEA Jazz Masters and flown to D.C. to attend the Dinner alongside influential figures in the world of jazz. Judges for the second annual competition included jazz legends Jimmy Heath and Ron Carter.

“Receiving the BMI Future Jazz Master Scholarship was an incredibly motivating and inspiring experience that I count among my greatest musical memories,” said Otts. “To have the support of a world class music organization such as BMI both professionally, as well as through the scholarship, will enable me to pursue my dreams as a jazz performer and educator. Thank you BMI Foundation for providing a wonderful weekend in Washington D.C. where I was able to meet many of my jazz heroes, and thank you for your continued outstanding support of jazz performance and education.”

The BMI Future Jazz Master Scholarship is an annual competition for rising jazz stars pursuing an advanced academic degree in Jazz Studies or Jazz Performance at select schools nationwide. The award was established by BMI last year 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 emerging performers. A $5,000 scholarship is awarded by a panel of NEA Jazz Master judges based on evidence of talent and potential as a jazz performer and composer.

Atlanta-based saxophonist, composer, and educator Chris Otts has been active in the Atlanta music scene since moving to the area in 2010. Otts is currently a graduate teaching assistant pursuing a master’s degree in Jazz Studies at Georgia State University while also maintaining a private teaching studio of over 40 students. In addition to his studies and teaching, Otts is an award-winning performer, composer, and arranger for many groups of varying styles.

As a performer, Otts has been able to share the stage and collaborate with incredible jazz artists including Wycliffe Gordon, Eric Reed, Jim Snidero, Scotty Barnhart, and Paquito D’Rivera. Otts is well versed in all styles of music and has worked with several pop and rock bands including performing with Blood Sweat and Tears and recording on a soon-to-be-released live album for The Whigs.

Otts recently released his debut album Layers with The Chris Otts Group, which features some of the finest musicians Atlanta has to offer. The Chris Otts Group has performed at numerous jazz venues throughout the Southeast, as well as jazz festivals including the Appalachian Wine and Jazz Festival, and the Candlelight Jazz Festival. Several prominent reviewers have remarked positively on the album. For more information, please visit