Postponed: Jazz At Lincoln Center’s 25Th Annual Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival

New York, NY (Wednesday, March 18, 2020) – Jazz at Lincoln Center places a priority on the health and safety of our concertgoers, artists, guests, patrons, program participants and staff. In response to the growing concerns about the spread of COVID-19, the organization has postponed the nation’s premier jazz education event, the 25th annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival, scheduled to take place in Frederick P. Rose Hall, The House of Swing, on May 7-9, 2020. Jazz at Lincoln Center will announce a new date and plans to celebrate the top 18 high school big bands.

To commemorate the 25th anniversary, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Managing and Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis will host an online Q&A, exclusively for the 2020 finalist bands—the students who are upholding the Essentially Ellington tradition in this banner year. Further details for this Q&A to be announced soon.

*“What do we do with all this time at home? *Asks Managing and Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis. Play video games? Maybe. Play board games (maybe) play music and practice instruments (yes yes)!!! This is a great time to get deeper into your routines and be productive. When ole Corona has departed, you can emerge with a new set of skills. Here at Jazz at Lincoln Center, in The House of Swing, we keep the music coming to you…I need to go practice now.”

All member students and band directors are encouraged to use Jazz at Lincoln Center’s free and digitally accessible Essentially Ellington resources, which include repertoire, audio, photos and more, by visiting

The 2020 Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Finalists are:

  • Agoura High School (Agoura Hills, CA)
  • Beloit Memorial High School (Beloit, WI)
  • Byron Center High School (Byron Center, MI)
  • Carroll Senior High School (Southlake, TX)
  • Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music (Bronx, NY)
  • Denver School of the Arts (Denver, CO)
  • Dillard Center for the Arts (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
  • Garfield High School (Seattle, WA)
  • Memphis Central High School (Memphis, TN)
  • Mountlake Terrace High School (Mountlake Terrace, WA)
  • Mount Si High School (Snoqualmie, WA)
  • New World School of the Arts (Miami, FL)
  • Plano West Senior High School (Plano, TX)
  • Rio Americano High School (Sacramento, CA)
  • Roosevelt High School (Seattle, WA)
  • Tarpon Springs High School (Tarpon Springs, FL)
  • Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble (Raleigh, NC)
  • Seattle JazzED Ellington Ensemble (Seattle, WA)

In addition to the top 18 high school jazz bands, the winner of the 8th Annual Essentially Ellington Dr. J. Douglas White Student Composition and Arranging Contest is Leo Steinriede of Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.

For 25 years, the Essentially Ellington program has been the cornerstone of Jazz at Lincoln’s Center’s arts education programming. The program has helped to foster the talent and love of jazz music of over 650,000 young musicians throughout its history.

The bands were selected from a competitive pool of 106 bands that submitted recordings of three tunes from Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Library.

The annual Competition & Festival marks the culmination of the annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program, which includes non-competitive regional festivals around the United States and Australia, free transcriptions of original Duke Ellington recordings, additional teaching resources, free adjudication, and more. TheEssentially Ellington program has reached more than 6,800 schools and independent bands in 55 countries. Additional resources can be found at

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