Jazz at Lincoln Center announces 15 Finalists for the 2019 Essentially Ellington Competition

Fifteen big bands across the nation named finalists for the 24th Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival

Jazz unites students from different political, socio-economic, and geographic backgrounds

New York, New York – (February 13, 2019 at 3pm) Jazz at Lincoln Center today announced the 15 finalists who will compete in its 24th Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival – the nation’s premier jazz education event – in New York City on May 9-11, 2019. The competition unites students from coast to coast, and from diverse backgrounds to find harmony together while playing some of the most complex music ever written.

The bands were selected from a competitive pool of 112 after submitting recordings of three tunes performed from the Essentially Ellington Library. From May 9 through the 11, these talented young musicians from all walks of life will participate in workshops, jam sessions and sectionals before competing for top honors in the House of Swing. After, a concert and awards ceremony will take place featuring this year’s top three bands alongside the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.

Essentially Ellington shows off America’s young people at their best. High school students from across this nation have worked tirelessly on the highest quality of our orchestral music. They’ve met the challenge of mastering vocal effects on horns, of improvising fresh, new individual ideas, and of swinging, which means embracing and nurturing the common ground,” said Wynton Marsalis, Managing and Artistic Director, Jazz at Lincoln Center. “In these divisive times, it’s important to teach and celebrate our most scared values: freedom of speech, empathetic listening, and constructive engagement with others. These kids have a lot to teach us. I’m looking forward to hearing them play, and to being instructed and inspired by them.”

Marsalis continues, “Duke Ellington envisioned the unlimited creative possibilities afforded to all of us by our way of life. This musician shared that vision and made it real. This is the banner under which we fight. It more enlightened and engaged America.”

The full list of 2019 Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Finalists includes:

  • Beloit Memorial High School (Beloit, WI)
  • Denver School of the Arts (Denver, CO)
  • Dillard Center for the Arts (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
  • Foxboro High School (Foxborough, MA)
  • Garfield High School (Seattle, WA)
  • Middleton High School (Middleton, WI)
  • Mount Si High School (Snoqualmie, WA)
  • Newark Academy (Livingston, NJ)
  • Rio Americano High School (Sacramento, CA)
  • Roosevelt High School (Seattle, WA)
  • San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts (San Diego, CA)
  • Sun Prairie High School (Sun Prairie, WI)
  • Tarpon Springs High School (Tarpon Springs, FL)
  • Philharmonic Association (Raleigh, NC)
  • William H. Hall High School (West Hartford, CT)

In addition to the top 15 high school jazz bands, Jazz at Lincoln Center announced the winner of the 7th Annual Essentially Ellington Dr. J. Douglas White Student Composition and Arranging Contest. This year, out of 21 submissions, the prestigious honor goes to Miles Lennox, of Dillard Center for the Arts (Fort Lauderdale, FL), an alumnus of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Summer Jazz Academy program and the Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival where he won Outstanding Soloist for piano. Miles will have his composition recorded by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and receive a $1,000 cash prize, a composition lesson with GRAMMY award-winning musician and longtime Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member, Ted Nash, and will receive a free trip to New York City to observe and participate in the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival.

Arts education has been a pillar of Jazz at Lincoln Center since it was founded over thirty years ago, with the Essentially Ellington competition serving as a programming cornerstone for 24 of those years.

The annual Competition & Festival marks the culmination of the annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program, which includes non-regional festivals around the country, free transcriptions of original Duke Ellington recordings, additional teaching resources, free adjudication, and more. More than 5,300 high school bands across the country participate in the program.

Festival events, including the final concert featuring the three top-placing bands and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, will be webcast live on

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

The Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival is media-accessible via Jazz at Lincoln Center social media on Facebook:, Twitter: @EssEllington, Instagram: @jazzdotorg.

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, Dr. J. Douglas White and the King-White Family Foundation, Augustine Foundation, Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Con Edison, The Hearst Foundations, and Entergy.

Additional information may be found at | Facebook: | Twitter: @jazzdotorg | Instagram: @jazzdotorg | YouTube: | Livestream:


Press Inquiries: Madelyn Gardner Manager, Public Relations & External Communications Jazz at Lincoln Center 212-258-9868

Julia Schechter SKDKnickerbocker, for Jazz at Lincoln Center 646.560.5424 (O) | 917.282.2754 ©

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