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27th Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Festival includes 3 finalists from Washington

Mount Si Band
Mt. Si High School Jazz Band at the 2017 Essentially Ellington competition

Jazz at Lincoln Center's prestigious nationwide competition usually selects at least one high school jazz band from our region. This year, there are three: Bothell, Mount Si and Seattle's Roosevelt.

Jazz at Lincoln Center, committed to instilling a broader understanding of this music, created the Essentially Ellington program during the 1995-96 school year to make Ellington’s music accessible to as many high school musicians as possible and to support the development of their schools' music programs.

Each year Jazz at Lincoln Center transcribes, publishes and distributes Duke Ellington Orchestra charts, along with recordings and additional educational materials, to high school bands in the U.S., Canada and American schools abroad. These charts are original transcriptions of recordings by the Duke Ellington Orchestra, not simplified arrangements.

In 2008, Jazz at Lincoln Center began including non-Ellington repertoire. While the music of Duke Ellington will always be central, the program now explores other important big band arrangers and composers as well — one each year. Featured artists have included Benny Carter, Mary Lou Williams, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie.

Throughout the school year, Essentially Ellington provides ongoing support to students and teachers participating in the program.

The annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival is held each May in New York City at Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Fifteen bands are selected as finalists, with each receiving an in-school workshop led by a professional musician. This year's event will be May 5-7.

The three-day festival allows students, teachers and musicians from across North America to participate in workshops, rehearsals and performances, concluding with an evening concert and awards ceremony featuring the three top-placing bands. The show closes with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis performing music from the following year’s Essentially Ellington curriculum.

Originally open only to schools in the New York metropolitan area, Essentially Ellington expanded in 1998 to include all 26 states east of the Mississippi. In 1999, the centennial of Ellington’s birth, the competition opened up to all 50 states and U.S. territories, followed by Canada two years later.

Here's the full list of the 2022 finalists:

Beloit Memorial High School (Beloit, WI), directed by Chris Behrens

Bothell High School (Bothell, WA), directed by Philip Dean

Byron Center High School (Byron Center, MI), directed by Marc Townley

Foxboro High School (Foxboro, MA), directed by Aaron Bush

Jazz House Kids (Montclair, NJ), directed by Nathan Eklund

Mount Si High School (Snoqualmie, WA), directed by William Leather

New World School of the Arts (Miami, FL), directed by Jim Gasior

Newark Academy (Livingston, NJ), directed by Julius Tolentino

Noblesville High School (Noblesville, IN), directed by Bethany Robinson

Orange County School of the Arts (Santa Ana, CA), directed by John Reynolds

Osceola County School for the Arts (Kissimmee, FL), directed by Jason Anderson

Plano West Senior High School (Plano, TX), directed by Preston Pierce

Rio Americano High School (Sacramento, CA), directed by Josh Murray

Roosevelt High School (Seattle, WA), directed by Scott Brown

Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble (Raleigh, NC), directed by Gregg Gelb

Congratulations to all the young musicians and their band directors!

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.