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February 14, 2024

Top 15 high school jazz bands in the U.S. commemorate Duke Ellington’s 125th birthday at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival on May 9-11, 2024

In celebration of Duke Ellington’s 125th birthday, Jazz at Lincoln Center offersnever-before-available scores of Ellington’s music
to high school bands across the globe.

New York, NY
(February 14, 2024) —  

No figure looms larger in the story of jazz than Duke Ellington whose artistic development and sustained achievement are among the most spectacular and influential in the history of music. 

On May 9-11, commemorating the 125th birthday of Duke Ellington —America’s most prolific composer of the 20th century in both number of pieces and variety of forms— the top 15 high school-aged jazz bands from across the country will converge at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s home, Frederick P. Rose Hall, in New York, NY.

Students will spend three days immersed in workshops, jam sessions, rehearsals, and performances, and compete for top honors in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 29th annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival, the nation’s premier jazz education event.

The 2024 Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Finalists:

Agoura High School (Agoura Hills, CA)
Directed by Chad Bloom

Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts (West Palm Beach, FL)
Directed by Christopher M. De León

Beloit Memorial High School (Beloit, WI)
Directed by Chris Behrens

Bothell High School (Bothell, WA)
Directed by Philip Dean

Byron Center High School (Byron Center, MI)
Directed by Marc Townley

Garfield High School (Seattle, WA)
Directed by Jared Sessink

King Philip Regional High School (Wrentham, MA)
Directed by Michael Keough

Newark Academy (Livingston, NJ)
Directed by Julius Tolentino

Orange County School of the Arts (Santa Ana, CA)
Directed by John Reynolds

Osceola County School for the Arts (Kissimmee, FL)
Directed by Jason Anderson

Plano West Senior High School (Plano, TX)
Directed by Preston Pierce

Roosevelt High School (Seattle, WA)
Directed by Hannah Mowry

Susan E. Wagner High School (Staten Island, NY)
Directed by Paul Corn

Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble (Raleigh, NC)
Directed by Gregg Gelb

Youth Jazz Ensemble of DuPage (DuPage, IL)
Directed by Robert Blazek

These finalists were selected from more than 100 high school jazz bands that submitted recordings of three tunes from the Essentially Ellington library.

In celebration of Duke Ellington’s 125th birthday, Jazz at Lincoln Center offers eight never-before-available scores, representing each decade of Ellington’s career, beginning in the 1920s and ending in the 1970s, to thousands of high schools participating in the Essentially Ellington program.

“Duke is our most comprehensive and prolific composer. Jazz at Lincoln Center commemorates his 125th year and celebrates the fantastic young people and band directors inspired by his music and approach to life,” said Wynton Marsalis, Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. “Congratulations to this year’s Essentially Ellington finalist bands. As you participate in the competition and festival, be part of a learning experience but also have a good time; Duke’s music’s most basic concern is uplift of the human spirit.”

In addition to highlighting the top high school jazz bands, the festival will recognize the winner of the 12th Annual Essentially Ellington Dr. J. Douglas White Student Composition and Arranging Contest. The 2024 winner is Ori Moore from Durham Academy in Durham, NC. Moore will receive a $1,000 cash prize and his winning composition, entitled “Fallin’,” will be recorded by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. The prize also includes a trip to the 2024 Competition & Festival weekend for a composition lesson with Grammy Award-winning artist and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member Ted Nash.

“The students, band directors, and communities in the Essentially Ellington program have made this competition and festival the most innovative jazz education event in the world,” said Todd Stoll, Vice President, Education at Jazz at Lincoln Center. “Your dedication to furthering this art form
is an achievement. Congratulations and we look forward to seeing you all and hearing you play.”

Essentially Ellington Festival events, including the final concert featuring the top-placing bands and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, will stream live on jazzlive.com. Tickets will be available for purchase in April. For more information, visit jazz.org/ee.

Since its inception in 1987, Jazz at Lincoln Center has produced an extensive range of jazz educational and advocacy programs for all ages. For the 29th year, the organization’s Essentially Ellington program spreads the message of Duke Ellington’s music, leadership, and collective orientation, providing high school ensembles with free transcriptions of original Duke Ellington recordings – accompanied by rehearsal guides, original recordings, professional instruction, and more – to thousands of schools and community bands in 58 countries. More than 7,000 high school bands have benefitted from free charts and resources. The three-day festival provides students access to workshops, jam sessions, rehearsals, and performances. This year’s competition judges are Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Alto Saxophonist Sherman Irby, top jazz drummer Jeff Hamilton, and acclaimed trumpet player Terell Stafford.

In conjunction with the national festival each year, the Essentially Ellington program includes non-competitive Regional Festivals around the country and provides schools with free transcriptions of original recordings by Duke Ellington and other seminal big band composers and arrangers, teaching materials, and other free resources. It has also served as a major talent incubator, with many alumni going on to form a new generation of professional musicians.

The program aims to promote appreciation for jazz music and American vernacular music and has served as a major talent incubator for many alumni who have gone on to form a new generation of professional musicians — with alumni including the likes of Grammy Award-winning artist Samara Joy, Grammy-nominated bassist and composer Carlos Henriquez, trumpeter and Blue Engine Records recording artist Summer Camargo, award-winning saxophonist Alexa Tarantino, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, and internationally acclaimed pianist Aaron Diehl.

A very special thanks to Jody and John Arnhold for their extraordinary support of
Jazz at Lincoln Center, including its education initiatives.

Founding leadership support for Essentially Ellington is provided by
the Jack and Susan Rudin Educational and Scholarship Fund and Gail and Alfred Engelberg.

Leadership support is provided by the Hearst Foundations, Inc.; the Augustine Foundation;
and the Weissman Family Foundation.

Major support is provided by the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation
and the Charles Evan Hughes Memorial Fund.

Generous support is provided by Michelle Deal Winfield and the Susan Rudin Charitable Fund.

Jazz at Lincoln Center proudly acknowledges its major corporate partners:
The Movado Group Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Nike, and the Coca-Cola Company.