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Winners of Essentially Ellington 2008 played with Wynton and JLCO

Two high school jazz bands from Seattle took home the top honors in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 13th Annual Essentially Ellington competition that culminated with a Saturday night concert where they performed with Wynton Marsalis as guest soloist.
Wynton presented the first-place trophy to Scott Brown, director of the Roosevelt High School Jazz Band, during the awards ceremony and concert at Avery Fisher Hall. Seattle’s Garfield High School Jazz Band took second place, but it boasted the winner of the Outstanding Soloist Award in clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Carl Majeau. The third-place trophy went to the Sun Prairie High School Jazz Band from Wisconsin.

Wynton Marsalis at Essentially Ellington 2008
Wynton judges the performers (photo: Sue Frause on Flickr)

Saturday afternoon, May 17, Wynton announced the top three bands without revealing who won first, second or third. The winner announcement followed the concert later that night, when the top three bands performed with him and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

The Essentially Ellington competition began Thursday with a pep talk from Wynton, followed by workshops and rehearsals with Jazz at Lincoln Center mentors, a banquet and a jam session. Friday’s activities included an open rehearsal with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
At night, students fanned out to jazz clubs and Broadway shows, taking in everything from “Phantom of the Opera” to trumpeter Tom Harrell, at the Village Vanguard.

Garfield High School Jazz Band
Second place: Garfield High School Jazz Band performs (photo: Sue Frause on Flickr)

Student performances were judged by a panel of four: Wynton Marsalis; composer, arranger, conductor and Ellington authority David Berger; Reggie Thomas, a professor of music at Southern Illinois University; and renowned clarinetist and band leader Bob Wilber.
This year, participating bands had a choice of six Ellington compositions to perform, including “Blue Serge,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “The Mooche,” and “Theme from ‘The Asphalt Jungle.’”

At Saturday night’s concert, the JALC orchestra performed compositions chosen for next year’s competition that for the first time will feature not only Ellington works but also tunes by Benny Carter, including “Symphony in Riffs” and “Movin’ Uptown.”

Roosevelt High School

Garfield High School

Sun Prairie High School

Shorewood High School


Winner of the Ella Fitzgerald Outstanding Soloist Award
Clarinet and Tenor, Garfield High School, Carl Majeau

On Clarinet
Honorable Mention Clarinet:
Stephen F. Austin High School, Stuart Davis
Roosevelt High School, Alex Dugdale

Outstanding Clarinet:
Medfield High School, Erika Santucci

On Alto Saxophone
Honorable Mention Alto Saxophone:
Roosevelt High School, Wyatt Palmer

Outstanding Alto Saxophone:
Mountlake Terrace High School, Jory Tindall
Douglass Anderson School of the Arts, Darren Escar
Sun Prairie High School, Michael Nonte

On Tenor Saxophone
Outstanding Tenor Saxophone:
Mountlake Terrace High School, Ben Walters
Stephen F. Austin High School, Matt Kennon

On Flute
Outstanding Flute: Eau Claire Memorial High School, Cheng Cheng

On Trumpet
Honorable Mention Trumpet:
Roosevelt High School, Corey Dansereau
Garfield High School, Riley Mulherkar
Champaign Central High School, Cassie Bugbee

Outstanding Trumpet:
Garfield High School, Zuben Hensler
Agoura High School, Mor Frankie

On French Horn
Outstanding French Horn:
River East Collegiate, Olivia Orton

On Trombone
Honorable Mention Trombone:
Sun Prairie High School, Trae Titus

Outstanding Trombone:
Douglass Anderson School of the Arts, T.J. Norris
Garfield High School, Jake Linde
Dekalb High School, Sam Crittenden

On Piano
Honorable Mention Piano:
Medfield High School, Matt Aucoin
Roosevelt High School, Gus Carns

Outstanding Piano:
Garfield High School, Ben Hamaji
Douglass Anderson School of the Arts, Jahann Sweet

On Bass
Outstanding Bass:
River East Collegiate, Cole Ridd
Agoura High School, Nicole Saphos

On Drums
Outstanding Drums: Douglass Anderson School of the Arts, Jeremy Smith

On Banjo
Outstanding Banjo: Sun Prairie High School, Ben Acton

Outstanding Tap Dancers
Roosevelt High School, Alex Dugdale, Ethan Kahn


Hall High School
Garfield High School

Shorewood High School
Garfield High School

Dekalb High School
Champaign Central High School
South Whidbey High School
Sun Prairie High School

Sun Prairie High School
Roosevelt High School

New category: Doubler/Tripler
Honorable Mention, Doublers:
On Tenor & Alto, Dekalb High School, Jeff Miguel
On Clarinet & Alto, Eau Claire Memorial High School, Simon Adler

Outstanding Doublers:
On Baritone & Alto, Shorewood High School, Brad Murphy
On Tenor & Clarinet, River East Collegiate, Clay Ridd

Outstanding Tripler:
On Clarinet, Alto & Tenor, Champaign Central High School, Michael Anderson

In addition, Jazz at Lincoln Center recognized the winner of the seventh Essentially Ellington Essay Contest.
The contest invited students from all participating high schools to submit an essay describing a personal experience with jazz. Jazz at Lincoln Center received 53 essays from which esteemed historian, author, editor, archivist and Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University DAN MORGENSTERN chose the winners. As the 1st place winner for the winning essay entitled “What It’s All About,” Kelsey Van Dalfsen (Mountlake Terrace High School) was invited to name a seat in Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, and read her essay at the opening of the festival on Thursday, May 15, 2008.

For more information visit the Annual Essentially Ellington Student Essay Contest.

Also, for the first time in the history of Essentially Ellington, Parsons School of Design student Marie Shirato created the design campaign for the program that was used in posters, advertisements, t-shirts, etc. Shirato’s design was chosen by Jazz at Lincoln Center from a large number of Parsons student submissions. This special collaboration between Parsons School of Design and Jazz at Lincoln Center will continue annually.

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  1. It’s clear that garfield should have won. Everyone I was with agreed.

    Unbiased Observer on Jun 2nd, 2008 at 2:44am

  2. Uh oh…I won’t get into the arguing (I’m from the Connecticut band) but it was a great competition, it made me a much better player, and I can’t wait for next year.

    Dale R on May 27th, 2008 at 9:33pm

  3. Good good good good good. Brings back the good ol memories. keep it up roughriders!

    Brittany anjou on May 23rd, 2008 at 5:44pm

  4. I’d love to steer the high school music focus away from competition (even friendly rivalry) and more toward community building. I think Wynton and his crew reinforced this attitude shift this year. Wynton was especially supportive of our kids, encouraging them to continue pushing themselves toward Excellence. Although good things come from friendly competitiveness, even more reward comes from cultivating the rich community of next generation jazz-loving (music-loving) musicians.

    Jazz mom on May 23rd, 2008 at 10:35am

  5. I don’t mean to speak for Berger, Marsalis, & the rest of them, but when it comes down to judging, the criteria is right there in the book. It’s all understood between them, what the experts agree is the standard. The scores get listed during or right after the performance. What’s there is and what’s missing isn’t. Then the tally… After the tally, the judges look and reassess to confirm the correctness of their assessment.

    That’s the nature of competition. And this is a competition. It’s not an egalitarian thing; but, nonetheless, this does appear to be a democratic process.

    (perhaps everyone should just have EE Overalls)

    Karen on May 23rd, 2008 at 12:09am

  6. I meant In A Mellow Tone, not Jam-A-Ditty (although both bands played Jam-A-Ditty well).

    Jazz Fan on May 22nd, 2008 at 8:26pm

  7. As an unbiased observer of the competition, I would say I enjoyed Garfield slightly more than Roosevelt. While Roosevelt played exceptionally tight, I was blown away by the level of soloing on Garfield’s part, particularly on Jam-A-Ditty. I also loved Zubin Hensler’s friendly (and high-level) trumpet battle with Wynton. Bravo to all!

    Jazz Fan on May 22nd, 2008 at 8:25pm

  8. I agree with you Richard!!!

    Pers. John Mitchell on May 22nd, 2008 at 2:43pm

  9. Just a thought. Instead of spending too much time on comparisons and judgement perhaps we should just applaud these young musicians for their dedication to the study of their instruments and their committment to jazz music and continuing its traditions. As a jazz educator from a small school in Ontario watching the final performances at the Lincoln Centre I was impressed with all three bands equally, enjoyed their musical contributions and made no judgements about which band or which soloist was better. What a waste of time and what a discredit to the amount of work that these musicians put in. Just a thought.

    Richard Frank on May 22nd, 2008 at 2:39pm

  10. You know Observer, that the soloists in Duke Ellington’s band generally played the same, pre-planned solos on Jam-A-Ditty. It seems to me that it is preferable to follow their example and play those same written solos well than to play improvisations that sound frantic and unmusical

    adawg on May 22nd, 2008 at 3:10am

  11. Spack Spop- you’re right, roosevelt’s soloists were much better on Jam-A-Ditty, they showed how well they could play written solos. congratulations!

    observer on May 21st, 2008 at 11:20pm

  12. i can’t believe that a member of roosevelt’s band would say that garfield soloists play only blues licks and roosevelt’s soloists are better when roosevelt used about 6 soloists, none of whom won soloist awards and garfield won 3 including best overall. and their two section awards obviously show that garfield played cleanly not sloppily in comparison to their rivals at roosevelt.

    observer on May 21st, 2008 at 11:19pm

  13. In reference to James, it seems to me as if it was the same way it has been every year since I’ve been coming here. Roosevelt has a very tight ensemble and perhaps soloists who aren’t up to par with the Garfield soloists, and Garfield coming out with a set that brings the crowd up to its feet with amazing solos, but a little lacking in the ensemble. Personally, even though they’re both great, I find Garfield more crowd pleasing and would prefer listening to them, but I love hearing all the bands at the competition.

    Longtime Spectator on May 21st, 2008 at 11:05pm

  14. I wasn’t at the jazz clinic but I can imagine how awesome it was. I saw a similar event at the University of Minneapolis in 1995 with the great Wynton Marsalis in charge. Let all of us help keep Jazz alive!!!!

    NANA AMO on May 20th, 2008 at 6:58pm

  15. There’s no big difference between the 3 bands.
    Congratulations to all of you guys!

    We are proud of you and your way of playing music.

    Pers. John Mitchell on May 20th, 2008 at 4:59pm

  16. Of course the students are proud of their accomplishments! It is a testament to the caliber of this festival that people care enough to express their opinions as to which group “should have won” Placings aside, the music performed by these high school students in a fantastic venue in front of top-notch judges and a knowledgeable, enthusiastic and totally supportive audience was wonderful. I truly enjoyed each of the 15 bands.

    It is inexcusable for comments such as Jack M’s to be accepted onto this website. Let’s keep it about the music at least! This is totally offensive.

    Thanks to Wynton and the Jazz at Lincoln Center staff for an incredible festival…year after year.

    Brown on May 20th, 2008 at 2:38pm

  17. I’m a part of the Garfield band, and just being able to play in New York with Wynton Marsalis kept a smile on my face the whole time.

    No matter how close the decision was, and no matter who won, I’ll always remember the things I saw at Essentially Ellington. Hearing the JLCO, especially on “Jeep’s Blues” and “Single Petal of a Rose” left me in a daze.

    Just looking forward to next year, and hoping its as good as this past one.

    Russell Blount on May 20th, 2008 at 12:19pm

  18. I played with Sun Prairie this weekend, and I thought all the bands out there were awesome. Placement out there dosent really matter, what is the difference? a Trophy and a little more money. I think just getting to play out there and really feeling the music is what matters. If you feel the music when you play and have a fun time doing it, you won.
    I don’t know about you guys but I felt like all won out there.

    Pat Z on May 20th, 2008 at 9:28am

  19. thank you p little. as a spectator, the two were incredibly close. garfield’s blue serge was probably a tad better, roosevelt’s jam-a-ditty may have been a tad better, and both performed incredibly on their respective openers. Garfield’s soloists were slightly better, Roosevelt’s ensemble was slightly better ( a recurring theme). It was too close to call.

    James on May 20th, 2008 at 3:31am

  20. Come on, kids—your comments are petty. You sound like you’ve been watching too much reality TV. ANY band at this level has achieved a tremendous accomplishment. Learn to encourage and praise all of the performers and stop being such spoil sports. Learn to trust the professional judges. First place, second or third at this level is F A N T A S T I C. Be proud of yourselves, be proud of your competitors, and be grateful for the gift of musical talent you have been given to share with the world. Congratulations—ALL of you!

    p. little on May 20th, 2008 at 2:17am

  21. Frederique, how can you say Garfield was cleaner or more professional than Roosevelt? Their rhythm section was incredibly poor compared to Roosevelt’s, and you really should listen to the recordings before saying something as untrue as that. Garfield’s soloists played mainly blues licks, while Roosevelt played solos that addressed the changes and even went outside once in a while. Your comment about them playing cleanly was evidently false in how different the two renditions of “Jam-a-Ditty” were. I would be surprised if even a Garfield player told me that they thought it was perfectly clean. However, Roosevelt’s rendition held together all the way through, including time, which Garfield’s did not. Roosevelt’s soloing especially on that tune was of a much higher caliber as well.

    Spack Spop on May 20th, 2008 at 1:14am

  22. Yes I agree and 2 other people that I talked to felt the same way. Garfield was overall better by being cleaner, with a better groove, excitement, and professional level soloists i.e the trumpetist and saxophonists. Closely followed by Roosevelt, and then Eden Prairie. We all felt the same way without much hesitation.

    Frederique on May 19th, 2008 at 6:45pm

  23. Abby, did you see Garfield play? If you did, explain to me why you think that they should have won over Roosevelt, and give me specifics.

    king carns on May 19th, 2008 at 5:39pm

  24. Garfield should have been first, they are an awesome band, there is always next year!

    Abby on May 19th, 2008 at 12:38am

  25. SWHS was one of five bands competing from the
    Pacific Northwest.

    Congratulations to all of the bands!

    gloria on May 18th, 2008 at 7:00pm

  26. Roosevelt High School is the best. We won!

    Staying in NY and playing at JALC was awesome guys!

    Pers. John Mitchell on May 18th, 2008 at 2:35pm