Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Competition – Piano (2009)


Finalist Bios

Julia Brav was born in 1986 and embraced music at a young age, beginning classical piano studies as a child.  Ms. Brav began to explore jazz in high school and has since had the privilege of studying with     pianists and composers JoAnne Brackeen, Marc Copeland, and Laurie Altman.  In May 2007, Ms. Brav received “Outstanding Performance” honors in the “Best College Jazz Education (IAJE) Sisters in Jazz  Collegiate All-Star Quintet”, coached by Sherrie Maricle.  Ms. Brav graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 2008, where she majored in Music with a certificate in Music Performance.  She will begin working towards a master’s degree in Jazz Performance at William Patterson University in the fall of 2009.
Rema Shimamura was born in Fukuoka, Japan to linguist/sociologist parents who loved and appreciated music. Ms. Shimamura began learning classical piano at age five and continued for about thirteen years.  As soon as she discovered Wynton Kelly among a piled collection of records her father owned, she knew that jazz was going to be her passion for life.  Shimamura’s aspiration for learning the style of jazz brought her to study in New York City.  While studying at the City College of New York where she achieved a bachelor’s degree in jazz performance with more than a few awards and scholarships, she studied with John Hicks, George Cables, Mike Holober, and Jason Lindner.  She infuses many different musical qualities such as classical, hard bob, blues, gospel, and groove into her piano performance and compositions.
Israeli born pianist and composer Shimrit Shoshan began playing the organ and flute when she was 8 years old and went on to attend  Israel’s prestigious Thelma Yellin High School for the Arts. In 2006, she was accepted and received scholarships to attend the New School, where she has studied with Eric Reed, Frank Hewitt, Harry Whitaker, Kenny Barron, Charles Tolliver, and Benny Powell.  In 2009, Shoshan was selected as one of four finalists to compete for acceptance to the prestigious Monk Institute. She has also performed with artists Nasheet Waits, John Herbert, Eric McPherson, Abraham Burton, and Ben Street, in addition to performing with legendary jazz drummer, Charlie Persip. Ms. Shoshan is featured on Eric McPherson’s newest release Continuum, and has composed and recorded music for poet Carla M. Cherry’s spoken word release, Gnat Feathers & Butterfly Wings. She is currently working on her own recording project, Chamsa.
A native of Seattle, Carmen Staaf has performed throughout the United States as well as at numerous festivals in Europe and Latin   America. Carmen currently lives in Brooklyn and plays with various NYC ensembles. Her 2008 album “Reflection”, which was called “profoundly beautiful”, features young jazz stars Richie Barshay and Jorge Roeder. Carmen has worked with jazz luminaries including Eddie Gomez, Bob Brookmeyer, Bob Moses, and George Garzone.  As an    accordionist, she has performed with Lila Downs at Carnegie Hall and with Klezmatics members Frank London, Lorin Sklamberg, and Alicia Svigals.  Carmen joined the piano faculty at Berklee College of Music at age 24, upon graduating from a five-year double degree program at Tufts University (anthropology) and the New England Conservatory, where she studied with Danilo Perez. In 2004, she was the pianist in the IAJE Sisters in Jazz. Before college, she spent six months studying music in Cuba.
Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Competition – Piano (2009)