PHILADELPHIA – Mayor Jim Kenney kicked off Philly Celebrates Jazz, the citywide celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month to take place in April, by presenting the newly dedicated Benny Golson Award to jazz pianist and Late Show with Stephen Colbert bandleader Jon Batiste at a press conference on March 27 at City Hall.

“I am honored to present the first Benny Golson Award to Jon Batiste, who exemplifies what can be accomplished in using your talents in educating our youth in the importance of the arts and culture,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “As I have said many times, arts education is not a luxury, it is a necessity and one of the most effective ways of helping our children grow and develop into not only more creative, but also open-minded and compassionate people.”

Along with his artistic accomplishments including topping both Billboard jazz and iTunes jazz charts with his album “Social Music” in 2013, Jon Batiste was selected as the 2017 Benny Golson Award honoree because of his significant work in arts education including the Social Music Residency and Mentoring Program he created, as well as his work in schools and universities across the country, including Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music and Play On, Philly!, in raising awareness for jazz and music education.  He also serves as the Co-Artistic Director at Large for the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.

The Benny Golson Award was given for the first time to honor a living jazz musician with an international reputation. By dedicating the award to jazz legend and Philadelphian Benny Golson, the city of Philadelphia recognizes the history of jazz in Philadelphia and at the same time also the future of jazz and the active work of an individual jazz artist in teaching and educating the next generation in the power of jazz and arts education.

Along with the Benny Golson Award, the Philly Celebrates Jazz Award, given to local Philadelphia jazz musicians for their contributions to the art form of jazz as well as to the Philadelphia community through arts education, was presented this year in honor of women in jazz. The Philly Celebrates Jazz Award was given to jazz guitarist Monnette Sudler-Honesty, and posthumously to organists Trudy Pitts and Shirley Scott for their contributions to jazz in Philadelphia.

Grammy-nominated jazz guitarist Monette Sudler, who is known as the “First Lady of Jazz Guitar” has been arranging and performing her signature blend of classical and funk jazz guitar since the 1970s and is founder of the Philadelphia Guitar Summit.

Trudy Pitts helped to popularize the Hammond B3 organ in the 1950s and 1960s, and released twelve albums over her four decade-long career.  Shirley Scott, who was known as “The Queen of the Organ”,   first gained wide recognition in 1958 and released over fifty albums during the span of a performance career that lasted well into the 1990s in Philadelphia’s popular jazz clubs. Trudy Pitts and Shirley Scott were also both known for being professors of music at University of the Arts and Cheyney University respectively during their careers.

The city’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE) also announced the launch of Philly Celebrates Jazz for 2017.  Philly Celebrates Jazz promises to be one of the country’s largest celebrations of Jazz Appreciation Month, featuring more than 200 jazz-related events, including exhibitions, film screenings, workshops, and concerts throughout Philadelphia and over 65 free events for the public.

The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy is excited to produce with our community partners the new Philly Celebrates Jazz Community Series that will make jazz accessible to Philadelphians in their own community spaces,” said Chief Cultural Officer Kelly Lee. “Philly Celebrates Jazz has provided us with the opportunity to launch this exciting series of high quality and free arts and culture programming that we hope continues to grow throughout the year in every neighborhood in our city.”

For the first time, OACCE will produce the Philly Celebrates Jazz Community Series, which includes free performances, film screenings, and dance classes at libraries, recreation centers, and senior centers across Philadelphia in all 10 City Council Districts as a part of the Philly Celebrates Jazz. At City Hall in collaboration with OACCE, on Wednesdays at noon during the month of April, public radio station WRTI will present live listening sessions with internationally-renowned jazz artists. The full schedule of the Philly Celebrates Jazz Community Series, Philly Celebrates Jazz WRTI Listening Sessions as well as the full Philly Celebrates Jazz Event Calendar, please visit:

About Philly Celebrates Jazz

The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy leads the City of Philadelphia in Philly Celebrates Jazz, a celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month in April each year. The month long celebration in April featuring with live performances, art, exhibitions, discussion panels, and films, showcases the power of jazz in different shapes and raises awareness about Philadelphia’s rich jazz heritage. For more information about the Philly Celebrates Jazz, visit:, and on Twitter @CreativePHL and Instagram @CreativePHL.

About the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy

The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy supports and promote arts, culture and the creative industries; develops partnerships that ensure culture and creativity are essential components of Philadelphia’s community revitalization, education, and economic development strategies; and links Philadelphians to cultural resources and opportunities. For more information about the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, visit: and on Twitter @CreativePHL and Instagram @CreativePHL.