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Students prepare for upcoming appearance at Essentially Ellington competition in NYC

The Mount Si jazz band practices ahead of this year's Essentially Ellington competition.
Ariel Van Cleave
/
KNKX
The Mount Si jazz band practices ahead of this year's Essentially Ellington competition.

Three high school jazz bands from the region are heading to the 2019 Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival in New York this week. Roosevelt, Garfield and Mount Si students will be competing with musicians from a dozen other schools to win top honors at the event. 

Mount Si senior and guitarist Ryan Horn attended the competition as a sophomore. He says he looks forward to returning.

"The really fun part about Ellington is the energy," Horn said. "Everybody's bringing their 'A game' and they're just there to play jazz, which is really cool. It's really hard to replicate that environment."

Sage Eisenhour is making her second appearance, as well. The senior trumpet player also serves as the band's lead vocalist. 

"It is a little nervewracking being a vocalist for the group," Eisenhour said. "But I feel at home when I do it just because I know that I have a ton of people behind me just cheering me on, and it just feels right to be doing that with all of them." 

She says she's excited for another opportunity to be on stage at New York's Jazz at Lincoln Center. Performing jazz makes her feel like she's part of history, she said. 

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Credit Ariel Van Cleave / KNKX
/
KNKX

"We're playing songs that were conceived when we were not even a thought, or far in the distance," Eisenhour said. "It's just this level of emotional attachment to the music that we all feel that makes it so special." 

Horn says his affinity for jazz isn't just about being part of history; he also likes that the genre is a "living, breathing thing." 

"You can't put a box on it," he said. "It has this super rich history. That's totally true. But I think jazz also has a huge future... and it's really, really cool to me that that community is just changing and it's like this melting pot of all these different influences that started so long ago, but is still continuing so strong today."

The competition and festival is May 9-11. It concludes with a concert and awards ceremony, featuring the three top-placing bands and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. 

Ariel first entered a public radio newsroom in 2004 while in school at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. It was love at first sight. After graduating from Bradley, she went on to earn a Master's degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. Ariel has lived in Indiana, Ohio and Alaska reporting on everything from salmon spawning to policy issues concerning education. She's been a host, a manager and now rides shotgun with Kirsten Kendrick as the Morning Edition producer at KNKX.