Competition & Festival

The 2019 Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival will be held May 9-11, 2019 at Rose Hall.

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The annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival is one of the most innovative jazz education events in the world. Each year, high school musicians from across North America travel to New York City to spend three days immersed in workshops, jam sessions, rehearsals and performances at the “House of Swing,” Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Held each May, the Competition & Festival is the culmination of the yearlong Essentially Ellington program, during which 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 Terell Stafford, Director of Jazz Studies at Temple University; jazz educator Ronald Carter; Justin DiCioccio, former 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. Among the past judges have been former Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra conductor and arranger David Berger; Bill Charlap, Director of Jazz Studies at William Paterson University ; trumpeter and educator Sean Jones; bassist and educator Chuck Israels; Gunther Schuller, who, according to All Music Guide, “is composer, conductor, horn player, jazz performer, writer, administrator, publisher, and teacher, all wrapped up into one tiny bundle of seemingly endless energy”; Pulitzer Prize-nominated jazz musician and composer David Baker; renowned drummer and big band leader, Jeff Hamilton; and, of course, Wynton Marsalis himself.

The festival concludes with a concert and awards ceremony featuring the three top-placing bands and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.