Rianna Kopcho Named the 24th Jimmy Lyons Scholar to Berklee

Kopcho is the first guitarist and second woman to receive the Jimmy Lyons Scholarship.

September 29, 2020

Rianna Kopcho, a guitarist from Omaha, Nebraska, has been named the 24th recipient of the Jimmy Lyons Scholarship, a four-year, full-tuition award presented in conjunction with the Monterey Jazz Festival. She is the first guitarist and the second woman to receive the award.

Previous recipients of the Jimmy Lyons Scholarship include Billy Buss B.M. ’09 (Billy Hart), Rushad Eggleston ’03 (Crooked Still), Milton Fletcher B.M. ’03 (Christian Scott), Jonathan Pinson B.M. ’11 (Wayne Shorter), Dayna Stephens ’01 (Kenny Barron), and James Williams ’06 (Gary Burton).

“My dream is to inspire and educate a new generation in the amazing powers of music by exploring its deeper meaning,” said Kopcho. “This scholarship will bring my vision into focus and grant me the opportunity to share my musical aspirations with the world.”

Kopcho was introduced to the guitar at the age of 11 when her older sister taught her how to play Taylor Swift’s “You Belong with Me.” After studying acoustic guitar and violin for several years, she learned electric guitar in 2016, going on to perform with School of Rock Oklahoma. Her love of guitar grew even more after discovering new genres through pit orchestra, show choir, and jazz band at her school.

In 2018, Kopcho performed with School of Rock at Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Following this performance, she realized that she wanted to play live music and make it her life’s work. Later that year, she began lessons with Zach Adkins, winner of the 2017 Ibanez Flying Fingers Guitar Competition; Adkins played a pivotal role in helping her create a unique musical identity. In 2019, Kopcho was selected as the only guitarist in the Nebraska All-State Jazz Band.

About the Jimmy Lyons Scholarship

In 1996, Berklee College of Music, in association with the Monterey Jazz Festival, created the Jimmy Lyons Scholarship to Berklee, in honor of the festival’s founder. Started as a nonprofit in 1958, the Monterey Jazz Festival is the longest continuously running jazz festival in the world, and has presented nearly every major jazz artist over the last 60-plus years—from Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Dave Brubeck, Tony Bennett, and Miles Davis to contemporary masters Herbie Hancock, Diana Krall, Wynton Marsalis, Trombone Shorty, Norah Jones, Esperanza Spalding, and Terence Blanchard. As a nonprofit, the Monterey Jazz Festival is devoted to jazz education by presenting year-round local, regional, national, and international programs. The 63rd Monterey Jazz Festival was broadcast for free on the Monterey Jazz Festival YouTube Channel from September 25 to 27.

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