Essentially Ellington Festival and Competition Celebrates 15 Years May 7-9, 2010

Jazz at Lincoln Center will welcome the 15 finalist bands and the winning community band to prestigious 15th Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival. The bands will compete and participate in workshops, jam sessions, and more during a three-day Competition & Festival in New York City. The three top-placing bands will perform with Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center Wynton Marsalis as guest soloist, followed by a performance of the 15-piece Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, whose members serve as mentors for the finalist bands throughout the weekend. The Festival’s finale is an awards ceremony honoring outstanding soloists, sections, and the top three bands. The Competition & Festival is the culmination of the annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program (EE). EE also includes regional festivals, curriculum resources, a summer Band Director Academy, monthly newsletters, and more.


In-School Clinicians:




Jazz at Lincoln Center also announces the winners of the annual Essentially Ellington Writing Contest.
Katie Johnston, who wrote the winning short story “No Words Needed”, will receive a trip to New York City to attend the Competition & Festival where her piece will be shared and printed in the Festival’s playbill. First, second, and third place winners will receive a collection of prizes including a certificate, recordings, literature, subscription to a jazz publication, Jazz at Lincoln Center merchandise, and new charts for their school programs. The submissions were reviewed by Jazz at Lincoln Center staff and special guest judge Robert G. O’Meally, Founding Director of the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University, and Zora Neale Hurston, Professor for English and Comparative Literature.

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of EE, Jazz at Lincoln Center has launched a national search to reconnect with its community and add new program initiatives: 
The winner of the EE Community Band category will play in exhibition and attend all activities during the annual Competition & Festival.

A short story component was added to EE’s annual Writing Contest.
 A fifth regional festival at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Louisiana will take place April 24, 2010.
Jazz at Lincoln Center continues to support the promotion of screening events featuring the acclaimed documentary CHOPS, which follows a finalist band through their EE experience.
Visit for more information.

Students, band directors, parents, and general fans are encouraged to share their experiences and favorite stories via an online survey to reflect and document the impact of the program. Responses will be compiled and presented during the Competition & Festival, May 8-10, 2010.

Visit to take the survey, open until March 15, and for more information on all 15th anniversary initiatives.

Competition & Festival: May 8-10 at Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Final Concert: May 10 at Avery Fisher Hall, 7:30pm

Free tickets for each Competition Part will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis, one hour before the start of each concert on May 9 and May 10.
Tickets for the Concert and Awards Ceremony are $20 or $25 and available now at the Avery Fisher Hall Box Office, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Box Office, by calling CenterCharge at 212-721-6500 or at

For more information or a schedule of events, visit:

Throughout March and April, Jazz at Lincoln Center will send free of charge a professional musician to each of the 15 finalist and winning community band schools to lead an intensive day-long workshop of rehearsals, lessons, and master classes. These clinics are part of the rich 15-year history of this unique music education program, which has reached more than 300,000 students in more than 3,000 high schools across all 50 U.S. states, Canada, Australia, and American schools abroad. Essentially Ellington has produced and distributed more than 90,000 copies of 86 previously unavailable scores and 207 finalist bands have traveled to New York City to participate in the annual Competition & Festival.

This year Jazz at Lincoln Center distributed more than 9,600 newly transcribed scores, reference recordings and additional educational materials.

While the music of Duke Ellington continues to be central to Essentially Ellington, in 2008 Jazz at Lincoln Center expanded the Essentially Ellington repertoire to include other seminal big band composers, beginning with “The King” Benny Carter. This season’s repertoire features the music of Mary Lou Williams in conjunction with the centennial celebration of her birth (May 8, 1910). The repertoire includes arrangements that she wrote for the Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman Orchestras. This year’s repertoire includes compositions by Duke Ellington, “Feet Bone,” “Lady Mac;” by Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, “After All;” and by Mary Lou Williams, “New Musical Express,” “Roll ‘Em,” and “Walkin’ and Swingin’.”

This year 1,550 high schools in the United States, Canada, and American schools in Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, and Switzerland received Essentially Ellington materials.

96 bands entered the competition by submitting a recorded performance of three compositions.

The entries were evaluated in a blind screening by jazz education experts RONALD CARTER, CHRIS CRENSHAW, TED NASH, and LOREN SCHOENBERG.
15 finalists and one community band were selected.
Alfred Publishing is the commercial distributor of the Essentially Ellington print music library. View the 2010 EE titles and the entire JALC print music catalog at


“It is extremely gratifying to see the results of the seeds we sowed 15 years ago when we started Essentially Ellington. The improvement in the quality of the bands down through the years attests to the artistic substance of Duke Ellington’s music. The enthusiasm and dedication of students, families, band directors, judges, and alumni testify to the timeless American values that define this competition and festival. I’m looking forward to hearing this year’s finalists; it is my favorite time of year.”

Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director, Jazz at Lincoln Center

“This is an exciting time for Essentially Ellington as we celebrate our 15 years – honoring Mary Lou Williams in her centennial year, welcoming the winner of the Community Band category back to the festival, reaching out to find program alumni through a national search and survey, broadening our writing contest and adding a new regional festival in Louisiana – it all expands the breadth and reach of our mission. As we announce this year’s 15 finalists we see both familiar and new schools – and look forward to welcoming the students, teachers, and parents to the House of Swing in May.”

Erika Floreska, Director of Education, Jazz at Lincoln Center

Albany High School, Albany, CA
Rio Americano High School, Sacramento, CA
Dillard Center of the Arts, Fort Lauderdale, FL
New World School of the Arts, Miami, FL
The Lovett School, Atlanta, GA
Foxboro High School, Foxboro, MA
King Philip Regional High School, Wrentham, MA
F. H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, New York, NY
Plano Senior High School, Plano, TX
Carroll Senior High School, Southlake, TX
Edmonds-Woodway High School, Edmonds, WA
Garfield High School, Seattle, WA
Roosevelt High School, Seattle, WA
Eau Claire Memorial High School, Eau Claire, WI
Wauwatosa East High School, Wauwatosa, WI

Winner of Community Band Category:
Tucson Jazz Institute, Tucson, AZ

Winners of Annual Writing Contest:
First Place: Katie Johnston, Eau Claire Memorial High School, Eau Claire, WI
Second Place: Jack Chelgren, Edmonds-Woodway High School, Edmonds, WA
Third Place: Rachel M. Cantrell, West Ranch High School, Stevenson Ranch, CA

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  1. I watched the vidoes from the 2009 EE JALC rehearsals you conducted. I learned so much about Duke’s spirit and your commitment to excellence. The rehearsals were so enlightening because you kinda get a glimpse into the Duke’s mind thanks to you. I can’t believe you didn’t call anyone a knucle head during the entire process (LOL). I hope the 2010 rehearsals will be made available soon. I’m your #1 fan for life.

    Beverly J. Douglas on May 13th, 2010 at 3:48pm

  2. I heard the Mary Lou Williams Tribute on NPR and was thrilled with the music, as always. The spirit and fire of that concert was a real joy to hear. Mr. Marsalis, you and all the musicians in the band are a great gift to jazz lovers everywhere.

    One of the solos I particularly enjoyed was by a guitarist whose name I did not catch because I had to leave to attend a 12-step meeting. Any chance you could let me know who that was?

    • Ian Macrae

    Ian Macrae on May 10th, 2010 at 11:07pm

  3. I just saw the final three in Twitter with label #ee15.

    Dillard (my DH is an alum and teacher)

    Any way to listen to the performances online?

    Kathy on May 10th, 2010 at 7:39pm

  4. Who is playing in tonight’s concert? (Who are the final three bands?)

    Colleen Garnevicus on May 10th, 2010 at 4:43pm