Jazz at Lincoln Center announces 15 Finalists for the 2015 Essentially Ellington Competition

New alumni association, special events, exhibit, and more commemorate 20th anniversary of prestigious national program

Jazz at Lincoln Center proudly announces the 15 finalist bands that will compete in the annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival – one of the most innovative jazz education events in the world – at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s home, Frederick P. Rose Hall, on May 7 – 9, 2015. This year marks the 20th anniversary of this national competition that has been considered “the ‘Cadillac’ of student band competitions” (Seattle Times).

The 2015 Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Finalists:

  • Agoura High School (Agoura Hills, CA)
  • American Music Program (Portland, OR)
  • Beloit Memorial High School (Beloit, WI)
  • Community Arts Program (Coral Gables, FL)
  • Dillard Center for the Arts (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
  • Foxboro High School (Foxboro, MA)
  • Garfield High School (Seattle, WA)
  • Lexington High School (Lexington, MA)
  • Lyons Township High School (LaGrange, IL)
  • Mount Si High School (Snoqualmie, WA)
  • New World School of the Arts (Miami, FL)
  • Newark Academy (Livingston, NJ)
  • Roosevelt High School (Seattle, WA)
  • Sun Prairie High School (Sun Prairie, WI)
  • Tucson Jazz Institute (Tucson, AZ)

High school jazz bands across the U.S. and Canada submitted recordings of charts from Jazz at Lincoln Center’s vast Essentially Ellington library. On May 7, the finalist bands will arrive in New York City to spend three days immersed in workshops, jam sessions, rehearsals and performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center. On May 9, the Competition & Festival will conclude with a concert and awards ceremony featuring the three top-placing bands and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.

“On behalf of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Board and Staff, congratulations to this year’s finalist bands,” said Todd Stoll, Vice President of Education, Jazz at Lincoln Center. “Our annual May event is much more ‘celebration’ than ‘competition,’ particularly during this landmark 20th anniversary year. The combination of the greatest American composers/arrangers with some of our most committed and talented young people and their educators is a triumph for our culture.”

To commemorate the milestone 20th anniversary of this free high school jazz program designed to elevate musicianship, broaden perspectives, and inspire performance, Jazz at Lincoln Center will present a host of celebratory events and offerings:

  • Jazz at Lincoln Center calls for past Essentially Ellington participants to join the newly created Essentially Ellington Alumni Association (EEAA). EEAA aims to become a community to celebrate jazz, reconnect with peers, and network professionally. Contact Rose Rutledge at [email protected] for more information.
  • A retrospective Essentially Ellington documentary will premiere on Jazz at Lincoln Center’s YouTube channel, , on April 13, 2015.
  • An Essentially Ellington exhibit featuring rare video footage and photographs will be unveiled at Jazz at Lincoln Center in April.
  • The Essentially Ellington Luncheon and conversation featuring Soledad O’Brien and Jazz at Lincoln Center Managing and Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis will be held on May 7 in The Appel Room. For information and tickets to the Essentially Ellington luncheon, please contact [email protected].
  • The Essentially Ellington competition and final concert on May 7-9 will be webcast live on

Held each May, the Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival is the culmination of the yearlong Essentially Ellington program, which distributes free music and supplemental resources to high school and college jazz ensembles throughout the U.S., Canada, and American schools abroad. The 2014-15 season includes more than 3,200 member programs. Participating bands are invited to submit a recording, and 15 finalists are selected through a rigorous screening process. Each finalist band receives an in-school workshop led by a professional musician before coming to New York to put up their “Dukes” and perform before Wynton Marsalis and a panel of esteemed judges. Past workshop clinicians have included trumpeter Terell Stafford; jazz educator Ronald Carter; Justin DiCioccio, director of Jazz Studies at Manhattan School of Music; saxophonist Loren Schoenberg; pianist and educator Reginald Thomas; Rodney Whitaker, Director of Jazz Studies at Michigan State University; and members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Past judges include former Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra conductor and arranger David Berger; Gunther Schuller, “composer, conductor, horn player, jazz performer, writer, administrator, publisher, and teacher, all wrapped up into one tiny bundle of seemingly endless energy” (All Music Guide); Pulitzer Prize-nominated jazz musician and composer David Baker; renowned drummer and big band leader, Jeff Hamilton; and Wynton Marsalis.

Founding leadership support for Essentially Ellington is provided by The Jack and Susan Rudin Educational and Scholarship Fund.

Major support is provided by Jessica and Natan Bibliowicz, Alfred and Gail Engelberg, Casey Lipscomb, Augustine Foundation, Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation, and the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.

For more information:
Christina Riley, PR Associate
212.258.9868 [email protected]

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  1. Brother Wynton keep it going u r A True Genius N Motivator im Country ask Branford who is country lol frat

    SsippiRedd on Apr 4th, 2015 at 4:49am

  2. Congratulations to a wonderfully talented group of high school musicians.

    alyce caldwell on Feb 19th, 2015 at 11:39am

  3. my favorite event of the year. See you there! Congratulations to tthe finalists!

    Renee Rampton on Feb 18th, 2015 at 7:59pm