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The first female instrumentalist has won the annual competition of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, the most prestigious in the world.
Each year, the institute focuses on a different instrument. Saxophonist Melissa Aldana, originally from Santiago, Chile, took first prize — a $25,000 scholarship and a record deal.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
Well, the first female instrumentalist has won the annual competition of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, the most prestigious in the world. Each year the institute focuses on a different instrument, and saxophonist Melissa Aldana, originally from Santiago, Chile, took the first prize this year, winning a $25,000 scholarship and a record deal.
Here she is playing the title track of her album "Freefall."
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
HOBSON: Well, Melissa Aldana joins us now. Melissa, congratulations.
MELISSA ALDANA: Thank you so much.
HOBSON: Well, your father and grandfather also played the sax. When did you start playing?
ALDANA: Yes, they both play saxophone, and I started playing when I was six years old.
HOBSON: Six years old.
HOBSON: So how does it feel now to have reached this point and won the prize from the Thelonious Monk Institute?
ALDANA: I'm really excited and really honored to have this prize. It was a really special moment, definitely.
HOBSON: And you are the first female instrumentalist ever to win.
ALDANA: Well, I know that means a lot, but to me it doesn't really make a difference. You know, I don't feel like a female that plays saxophone. I'm just honored to be there and just one more musician that was at the finals and that just love music, love jazz and love playing saxophone.
HOBSON: Does the jazz world feel like it's dominated by men? And why do you think that might be?
ALDANA: Well, there's definitely a lot of guys around, more than females, you know. But I mean I never feel different. If I feel different, it was just because I was - I'm from Chile, I'm from Santiago. You know, I have a different culture. I grew up with different experiences, you know. But I don't feel in a world of guys. You know, I just feel one more musician.
HOBSON: Well, what are you going to do with your $25,000 prize, And what's next for you?
ALDANA: Well, I'm going to take a lot of great lessons, with people that I really love, and I'm really excited about that. And the next step is going to be to record with my trio, with the Crash Trio, with Francisco Mela and Pablo Menares, basically they're from Chile. So I'm really looking forward to getting that album out soon.
HOBSON: We look forward to hearing it. Melissa Aldana, the first female instrumentalist to win the competition of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, congratulations and thanks for joining us.
ALDANA: Thank you so much.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
HOBSON: And we'll listen to some more of her music here. The latest news is next, HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.