Gabriel Condon, a master’s degree student at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music, was awarded first place in the jazz category of the 2014 Wilson Center Guitar Competition & Festival. Sponsored by the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in Brookfield, Wis., the annual competition is conducted in four areas: rock/blues, fingerstyle, classical, and jazz.
The competition award, which carries a $3,000 prize, is the latest honor for Condon, who has received two DownBeat magazine awards and has been selected to participate in several prestigious national music programs. For the Wilson Center event, he performed several jazz standards, including Charlie Parker’s “Moose the Mooche,” and an original work titled “Kairos.” As one of the competition winners, Condon opened for rumba flamenco artist Jesse Cook’s concert closing out the festival on August 16.
A resident of Penfield, Condon has been playing guitar since the age of 4. At age 12, he began studying jazz guitar at the Eastman Community Music School with Bob Sneider. He also studied classical violin and voice while in middle and high school. Condon received his Bachelor of Music degree in 2013 and is currently working toward his master’s in jazz composition with Bill Dobbins.
“The first time I heard Gabe, I was blown away by the way he soaked up music like a sponge and how good his ears were,” said Sneider. “He is versatile both singing and performing in styles including jazz, rock, pop, and blues.” Noting Condon’s technique, tasteful accompaniment, improvisation skills, and commitment, Sneider described the guitarist as “a voice that will be heard for years to come.”
Condon, 23, has performed with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and with such jazz artists as violinist Regina Carter and vibraphonist Stefon Harris. He can be heard throughout the greater Rochester area at restaurants, concerts, clubs, and festivals such as the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. Upcoming appearances include Sept. 14 at the Rochester Public Market; Sept. 25 on WGMC Jazz 90.1; and Sept. 28 at George Eastman House.
In 2008, Condon received DownBeat’s outstanding high school performance award in pop/rock/blues for his band Mint Jam’s debut album What You Need. That same year, he was selected to participate in the Brubeck Summer Jazz Colony, an intensive performance program for exceptional students. In 2009, he was awarded a Rochester International Jazz Festival/Eastman School of Music scholarship.
Condon was one of only 142 students from across the nation and the only jazz guitarist selected to attend the rigorous National YoungArts Foundation Program in Miami in January 2010. He earned a silver award for his performance as part of a jazz sextet and, as a result, was invited to give a second YoungArts performance in New York City. In May of that year, Condon received his second DownBeat award, this time for undergraduate college outstanding performance.
As a composer, Condon has written and arranged pieces for guitar and piano, big band, and woodwind quartet, winning the Charlie Cote Composition Award at Penfield High School. His piece “Second Place,” arranged for string quartet, was premiered by the Rochester Chamber Music Society during its 2009-2010 season.
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