15 Finalists to Compete in 28th Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Festival 2023

Nation’s Premier Jazz Education Event to Feature 15 High School-Aged Bands from Across the Country in Performance and Competition at Jazz at Lincoln Center From May 11-13, 2023

New York, NY – Today, Marcus Printup, Trumpet, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, announced the 15 finalists for Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 28th annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival, the hallmark program for the largest jazz education network in the world, set to take place May 11-13, 2023. This premier event will feature the top 15 high school-aged jazz bands from across the country as they perform and compete at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York City.

These finalists were selected from 100 high school jazz bands that submitted recordings of 3 tunes from the Essentially Ellington library, with over 2,000 member high school bands benefiting from free charts and resources as part of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 2022-23 Essentially Ellington program. This year marks the first time in program history that a Latin composer is featured with four tunes added to the EE library. Jazz at Lincoln Center made the first-ever publication of four works by Afro-Cuban-New York jazz and salsa pioneer Machito available to participating schools.

The 2023 Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Finalists:

  • Agoura High School (Agoura Hills, CA)
    Directed by Chad Bloom
  • 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
  • Garfield High School (Seattle, WA)
    Directed by Jared Sessink
  • New World School of the Arts (Miami, FL)
    Directed by Jim Gasior
  • 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
  • Roosevelt High School (Seattle, WA)
    Directed by Hannah Mowry
  • Sun Prairie West High School (Sun Prairie, WI)
    Directed by Matt McVeigh
  • Susan Wagner High School (Staten Island, NY)
    Directed by Paul Corn
  • Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble (Raleigh, NC)
    Directed by Gregg Gelb
  • William H. Hall High School (West Hartford, CT)
    Directed by James Antonucci

“Congratulations to this year’s finalist bands, the band directors, and the communities that participate in the Essentially Ellington program,” said Wynton Marsalis, Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. “We have heard so many fantastic young people over these 28 years. They have been a source of pride, of excitement, and of inspiration. This is always the highlight of our year. We look forward to seeing all of you in the House of Swing where we will celebrate you expressing yourselves, while listening intently to others, and extending the family of jazz.”

The three-day festival will provide students with workshops, jam sessions, rehearsals, and performances and culminates in the annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program, which has reached over 7,000 schools and independent bands in 58 countries. This year’s competition will be judged by Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center Wynton Marsalis, jazz arranger and composer Francisco Torres, top jazz drummer Jeff Hamilton, Essentially Ellington alumni and Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra bass player, Carlos Henriquez, and saxophonist, composer and previous Essentially Ellington finalist Alexa Tarantino.

The program aims to promote appreciation for jazz music and American vernacular music and has served as a major talent incubator for many alumni who have gone on to form a new generation of professional musicians — with alumni including the likes of GRAMMYⓇ winning Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Album Samara Joy, GRAMMYⓇ-nominated bassist Carlos Henriquez, rising star trumpeter Summer Camargo and saxophonist Alexa Tarantino, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, and acclaimed jazz pianist Aaron Diehl.

In addition to highlighting the best high school jazz bands, the festival will also recognize the winner of the 11th Annual Essentially Ellington Dr. J. Douglas White Student Composition and Arranging Contest. This year’s recipient, Henry Koban Payne from Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, will receive a $1,000 cash prize and have their winning composition recorded by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. The prize also includes a trip to the 2023 Competition & Festival weekend for a composition lesson with Grammy Award-winning musician and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member, Ted Nash.

In conjunction with the national festival each year, the Essentially Ellington program includes non-competitive Regional Festivals around the country and provides schools with free transcriptions of original recordings by Duke Ellington and other seminal big band composers and arrangers, teaching materials, and other free resources. It has also served as a major talent incubator, with many alumni going on to form a new generation of professional musicians.

“We are honored to welcome these exceptional schools to Jazz at Lincoln Center for workshops, performances, and competition in the creative and innovative spirit of Duke Ellington,” added Todd Stoll, Vice President, Education at Jazz at Lincoln Center. “This festival provides a unique opportunity for students and schools to be immersed in the world of jazz, and the expansion of our digital initiatives brings this important form of art education to even more students across the country. Access to these digital initiatives not only helps foster an appreciation and understanding of jazz, but it also helps to develop critical thinking skills and creativity, which are essential in today’s world.”

Festival events, including the final concert featuring the top-placing bands and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, will be webcast live. Tickets will be on sale to the public in April. For more information, including background, history, and audio recordings of the Essentially Ellington repertoire, visit: For live streaming information, visit

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