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Moorestown native receives jazz scholarship

Liam Sutcliffe embraces a smooth style of music

Special to The Sun: Moorestown native and trumpeter Liam Sutcliffe plays at 30th Station in Philadelphia on April 22. He received the 2022 performance scholarship from the New Jersey Jazz Society Awards’ juried scholarship competition.

Trumpeter and Moorestown native Liam Sutcliffe is among this year’s recipients of the New Jersey Jazz Society Awards’ juried scholarship competition, a contest with a $1,000 prize for performance.

Sutcliffe just graduated from Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts, but will continue his education in jazz studies in the fall. He started playing the trumpet when he was 10 and explained how he developed his passion.

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“My dad showed me a video of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker …” he recalled. “Before then, I wanted to play the French horn because (of) the way it looked. Once I saw that video, I wanted to play the trumpet.”

“I wasn’t really thinking about a career in music that early, but it’s something that I was very interested in,” Sutcliffe added.

The New Jersey Jazz Society this year celebrates its 50th anniversary of presenting, promoting and preserving jazz, and according to njjs.org, has created the juried scholarship competition to recognize that. Scholarship recipients also get guidance and mentoring from an industry professional and an opportunity to perform and are partnered with a younger musician to tutor.

Sutcliffe studied with saxophonist Bob Pollitt for five years, beginning in 2009.

“He taught me different chord qualities and he really got me into jazz really early, in addition to just learning how to play the instrument and studying out of the ‘method’ book,’” Sutcliffe said. 

“He could tell that I was really interested in jazz, so he taught me as much as he could about jazz music (and) improvisation.”

Sutcliffe attended Princeton High School, where he studied jazz music and received several accolades, including the New Jersey Association for Jazz Education Rick Kerber Scholarship.

“We would compete at these jazz festivals and competitions, and by my sophomore or junior year, I started to get recognition as an outstanding soloist,” he noted. “It was great to have a lot of big-band experience in high school.”

Sutcliffe was also a member of the Philadelphia Ambassador Big Band, led by pianist Joseph Block and saxophonist Dylan Band, and attended the Manhattan School of Music for one year before transferring to Rutgers.

“(There) (were) a lot of great players from all around the world, really,” he said. “It was really inspiring to be surrounded by all those musicians, because each one of them is incredible … It really motivated me to get better and improve on my instrument.”

Sutcliffe cites Roy Hargrove, Tom Harrell, Kenny Dorham and Joe Magnarelli as musical influences and described what he loves about jazz.

“Jazz harmony and melodies, it more closely resembles what music actually is than a lot of other music that we have today.”


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