15 U.S. high school big bands selected for Jazz at Lincoln Center’s virtual Essentially Ellington festival 2021, nation’s premier jazz education event

New York, New York (April 9, 2021) – Faced with enormous challenges due to concerns around COVID-19, band directors and high school student jazz musicians around the country have applied innovative and creative approaches to perform with and learn from each other. Inspired by this dedication and commitment, Jazz at Lincoln Center continues its support for this unique community and today announced plans to salute these high school students at the 2021 Virtual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Festival on June 4-5, 2021.

Today, during a Facebook Live event, Jazz at Lincoln Center Managing and Artistic Di-rector Wynton Marsalis announced the 15 high school-age jazz bands selected to participate in the 26th edition of the nation’s premiere jazz education event. The following were selected from a competitive pool of 66 bands that submitted a recording from Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Library:

2021 Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Finalists:

Agoura High School (Agoura Hills, California)
Directed by Chad Bloom

Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts (West Palm Beach, Florida)
Directed by Christopher de Leon

Byron Center High School (Byron Center, Michigan)
Directed by Marc Townley

Carroll Senior High School (Southlake, Texas)
Directed by David Lown

Champaign Central High School (Champaign, Illinois)
Directed by John Currey

Dillard Center for the Arts (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
Directed by Christopher Dorsey

Foxboro High School (Foxboro, Massachusetts)
Directed by Aaron Bush

Memphis Central High School (Memphis, Tennessee)
Directed by Ollie Liddell

Newton South High School (Newton, Massachusetts)
Directed by Lisa Linde

Noblesville High School (Noblesville, Indiana)
Directed by Bethany Robinson

Olathe Northwest High School (Olathe, Kansas)
Directed by Robert Davis

Plano West Senior High School (Plano, Texas)
Directed by Preston Pierce

Roosevelt High School (Seattle, Washington)
Directed by Scott Brown

Tucson Jazz Institute (Tucson, Arizona)
Directed by Johnathan Black

William H. Hall High School (West Hartford, Connecticut)
Directed by James Antonucci

Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 2021 Virtual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Festival events, free and open to the public, will be announced shortly and posted on

“The past year has been challenging for education, particularly arts education, however the dedication of the Essentially Ellington community has been unwavering,” said Todd Stoll, Vice President, Education, Jazz at Lincoln Center. “We’re proud to host these talented young people at the virtual Essentially Ellington Festival. The event is the culmination of a year of constant communication with the bands, and virtual workshops hosted by Jazz at Lincoln Center and members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

“Despite the challenges, this is a very exciting time in jazz education,” continued Stoll. “We look forward to bringing the community together to celebrate our young people who have demonstrated commitment to studying, rehearsing, and performing music from Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington library.”

In addition to celebrating the top high school jazz bands in the U.S., Jazz at Lincoln Center will recognize the winner of the 9th Annual Essentially Ellington Dr. J. Douglas White Student Composition and Arranging Contest. This year, out of 23 submissions, the prestigious honor is bestowed upon Daiki Nakajima from Pro-spect High School in Saratoga, CA. On a date to be announced, Daiki’s winning composition, “Fracture,” will premiere online, along with a public composition and arranging lesson with GRAMMY award-winning musician and longtime Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member, Ted Nash. For his winning composition, Daiki will receive a $1,000 cash prize.

Essentially Ellington is the nation’s premier jazz education program which has helped foster the talent and appreciation for jazz music to over one million young musicians throughout its history. The annual festival marks the culmination of the annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program, which includes non- competitive regional festivals around the country, free transcriptions of original recordings by Duke Ellington and other seminal big band composers and arrangers, additional teaching re-sources, free adjudication, and more.

The Essentially Ellington program has reached nearly 7,000 schools and independent bands in 55 countries. This important work is made possible by contributions of individuals and institutions who support the mission. Please support Jazz at Lincoln Center in this challenging time to ensure the organization is able to continue to entertain, en-rich and expand a global community for jazz through online learning and social media platforms.

For more information, including background, history, and audio recordings of the Essentially Ellington repertoire, visit:

The Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Festival is media-accessible via Jazz at Lincoln Center social media on Facebook:,,

Jazz at Lincoln Center thanks all of the supporters of Essentially Ellington who give us the tools to remain flexible and to continue to serve our mission.

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