High School Jazz Students, Wynton Marsalis, in United We Swing Parade

On Friday, May 12th, more than 300 high school jazz musicians, band directors and parents will be joined by world-renowned musician and Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Managing and Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis, musicians and community members in United We Swing, a “Second Line” Parade from Columbus Circle Park to Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall, in celebration and support of arts programs and arts education nationwide.

Led by a trumpet call from a Jazz at Lincoln Center musician, the Second Line – a traditional brass band parade in jazz and New Orleans culture – will serve as a kickoff for Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 22nd Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival, an innovative jazz education program that will bring 15 high school jazz bands to New York City for workshops and performances. As part of the United We Swing Parade, the students will perform traditional brass band tunes along Columbus Circle. Through this event, Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center will lift up these emerging jazz artists as the future of our nation’s arts, and our collective wisdom and memory.

Members of the public are encouraged to join. Anyone can RSVP for the United We Swing Parade at, or follow along on social media at #UnitedWeSwing.

The United We Swing Parade, while honoring the students and band directors competing in Essentially Ellington, will also showcase how unique arts education programs empower young artists to learn, create and play. Amidst proposed cuts to arts funding in the federal budget, this Second Line seeks to demonstrate both the importance of preserving the arts as well as the need to protect the next generation’s access to arts education, which is the foundation of their self-expression and free speech.

“Over Essentially Ellington’s 22-year history, we have given thousands of young people the opportunity to engage with our greatest music at the very highest level. By providing a national stage from which to do so, we have had the privilege of watching many of them develop into artists of significant stature with a profound understanding of our music and its importance in American culture”, said Todd Stoll, Vice President of Education at Jazz at Lincoln Center. “Essentially Ellington is an annual celebration of the accomplishments of not only these students, but of their teachers, schools, families, and entire communities, coming together for a common artistic goal. When we empower young people within any art form, it has an exponential effect; engaging all of those around them and increasing our common understanding and shared humanity. That’s why we are thrilled to be celebrating Essentially Ellington, these students and teachers with a swinging Second Line – they represent thousands of people in communities across our nation that love, engage, and support the arts, and we hope that all New Yorkers will join us in doing so!”

Essentially Ellington has stood for 22 years as one of the most innovative jazz education events in the world because of its commitment to sharing teaching resources and empowering young jazz artists to learn, create and play. As a result, students have developed a deeper sense of engagement with the world around them, taking pride in their work and achievements.

After three days of rehearsals, workshops and learning from professional jazz musicians, Essentially Ellington will conclude with a concert and awards ceremony featuring the three top-placing bands and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Tickets for all festival events are available here. They will also be webcast live on

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