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Essentially Ellington Contest
Jazz at Lincoln Center has announced the 15 finalist bands for its Seventh Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival. These bands will compete for over $11,000 in cash awards at the competition finals, produced by J@LC in New York City on May 11, 12, & 13, 2002. This year, six newly-transcribed Ellington scores and educational materials were sent to 1,240 high school jazz bands, of which 149 entered the competition by submitting a recording of three Ellington songs. In its first seven years, this unique music education program has reached over 180,000 high school students across all 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories, and Canada.

The three-day festival will begin on Saturday, May 11, when the finalist bands arrive for workshops, an open Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (LCJO) rehearsal, and a banquet dinner/combo showcase. In the two-part competition on Sunday, May 12, at 4pm and Monday, May 13 at 10:30am in Avery Fisher Hall, a panel of judges – including composer, conductor and Ellington authority DAVID BERGER, pianist and composer STANLEY COWELL, J@LC Artistic Director WYNTON MARSALIS, and others – will judge each band’s performance of three Ellington works. In the 7:30pm concert on May 13, the top three bands will perform alone and with Mr. Marsalis as soloist, followed by the LCJO performing an all-Ellington set.

Admission to the competition is FREE. Tickets for the concert at $20 are available at the Avery Fisher Hall box office, by calling CenterCharge at (212) 721-6500, or via

“Parents, students, band directors, and principals all over the United States and Canada have been working together to send their kids to New York in the cause of swinging,“ said J@LC Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis. “15 bands have been chosen, and these represent the finest high school jazz ensembles in North America. Our clinicians and judges are ready and it’s time to continue educating student musicians in the most enjoyable and exciting way we know.”

“This year, there are two exciting new expansions of the Essentially Ellington program,” said Laura Johnson, Director of Education & Performance. “First, our new essay contest, adjudicated by noted author Albert Murray, will give the first place winner the incredible opportunity to name a seat in our new facility. On a broader level, we are happy to announce our first overseas extension, Essentially Ellington Down Under in Australia in August 2002. We will continue to expand Essentially Ellington in future years, fulfilling our mission to encourage jazz appreciation among students worldwide.”

The 15 finalists for Essentially Ellington 2002 are:
* Rio Americano High School, Sacramento, CA
* SF Jazz All-Star High School Ensemble, San Francisco, CA
* Connecticut Youth Jazz Workshop, Middletown, CT
* Hall High School, West Hartford, CT
* New World School Of The Arts, Miami, FL
* Thornton Township High School, Harvey, IL
* Foxboro High School, Foxboro, MA
* King Philip Regional High School, Wrentham, MA
* 315 All-Stars, Greater Syracuse, NY
* LaGuardia High School For The Performing Arts, New York, NY
* Columbus Youth Jazz Orchestra, Columbus, OH
* Mountlake Terrace High School, Mountlake Terrace, WA
* Garfield High School, Seattle, WA
* Roosevelt High School, Seattle, WA
* Eau Claire Memorial High School, Eau Claire, WI

GOALS & HISTORY The most comprehensive program of its kind in the world, Essentially Ellington disseminates Duke Ellington compositions to high school jazz bands, encourages the study and performance of Ellington’s music, and fosters mentoring relationships between students and professional musicians. The program has seen major growth in its seven years; open originally, in 1996, to schools in the New York tri-state area, it expanded to 13 states and D.C. in 1997 and then to all 26 states east of the Mississippi in 1998. In 1999, the program opened up to all 50 states and U.S. territories. In 2000, J@LC inaugurated an annual companion program, the Essentially Ellington Band Director Academy (co-produced with Jazz Aspen Snowmass), in Snowmass, Colorado. In 2001, the program expanded to include high school jazz bands from throughout Canada. As with last year, those band directors whose bands place #16-20 receive free scholarships to this year’s Band Director Academy on June 27-July 1.

This year, J@LC inaugurated the Essentially Ellington Essay Contest, inviting students from all participating high schools to submit an essay describing a personal experience with jazz. Eighty-four essays were received, from which author and scholar Albert Murray chose the winners. The first place winner will be able to name a seat in Frederick P. Rose Hall – the new home of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

First place: Kwami Coleman, LaGuardia High School, New York, NY
Second place: Derek Breen, Eau Claire Memorial High School, Eau Claire, WI
Third place: Mark Olson, Eau Claire Memorial High School, Eau Claire, WI

For each year’s competition, J@LC selects and transcribes original arrangements of several Duke Ellington compositions, all previously unavailable, which are then published by Warner Bros. Publications, Inc. The six primary selections for 2002, which reflect the variety of styles and forms in Ellington’s body of work, are: IT DON’T MEAN A THING (IF IT AIN’T GOT THAT SWING), RAINCHECK, SUCH SWEET THUNDER, SULTRY SUNSET, THINGS AIN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE, and ZWEET ZURZDAY. These arrangements are distributed, for a nominal registration fee, to all high school jazz bands that express interest in the program by returning an application card. In addition, the 15 finalists receive two additional Ellington compositions, ALL HEART and THE EIGHTH VEIL.

Of the 1,240 bands that received this year’s six compositions and educational materials, 149 submitted recordings of three of those compositions to enter the competition. J@LC selected 15 finalists based on the criteria of soulfulness, improvisation, interpretation, technique, and tone/intonation. Bands not wishing to enter the actual competition were invited to send in a recording “for comments only.” Each band that sent in a recording received a detailed critique of their performance, and a signed certificate.

Throughout April 2002, J@LC will send, free of charge, a professional musician/clinician to each of the 15 finalist schools to lead an intensive daylong workshop of rehearsals, lessons, and master classes. The clinicians include trumpeter TERELL STAFFORD, drummer JUSTIN DICIOCCIO, and reed players RON CARTER and VICTOR GOINES, among others. During the festival in May, each finalist band is also paired up with a LCJO member as a mentor. The cash awards presented at the final concert, which go towards enhancing the schools’ jazz programs, are: $2,000 for first place, $1,500 for second place, and $1,000 for third place. Additionally, two bands each receive $750 honorable mention awards, and the remaining 10 bands receive a $500 award. Special awards are presented to outstanding soloists and sections. J@LC will also award $40,000 in travel stipends to assist bands traveling to New York City.

Major support for Essentially Ellington is provided by The Jack and Susan Rudin Educational and Scholarship Fund, Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye Foundation, PepsiCo Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, and Verve Music Group. Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, Citigroup Foundation, the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, The Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation, MTV Networks, New York Times Company Foundation, Gail & Alfred Engelberg, Elroy and Terry Krumholz Foundation, Robert E. and Elizabeth Anne La Blanc Foundation, and other generous funders.

High school jazz band directors seeking more information on Essentially Ellington should contact Nyala Wright, Education Assistant, at (212) 258-9812 or

In the first expansion of Essentially Ellington beyond North America, the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) has collaborated with J@LC to create the pilot program of Essentially Ellington Down Under in August 2002. The program will disseminate six Duke Ellington charts and other educational materials to high school jazz bands in Western Australia, after which the bands will submit taped entries for adjudication in July 2002. Sixteen finalists will be selected to receive an in-school workshop and participate in three days of competition, workshops, and performances on August 16-18, 2002 at the WAAPA campus at Edith Cohen University in Perth. Two Essentially Ellington clinicians will travel to Perth for two weeks to lead workshops, adjudicate bands, and perform with the top-placing bands in the finale concert.

Sat Mar 23 2002 (4:43:43 PM)


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