Apparently, the tightest, American high school jazz bands come from the far corners of this great nation. On May 13 three bands, two from Seattle and one from Miami, were chosen as winners in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s seventh annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band competition, held in New York.
Over the course of three days, judges David Berger, Stanley Cowell, Arturo O’Farrill and Wynton Marsalis listened carefully to 15 groups of youngsters swing through Ellington tunes and decided that Roosevelt High School of Seattle’s band was the best. Last year the judges found Roosevelt’s band to be second best. Snagging the second place spot this year was the band from Garfield High School, also from Seattle. And third place went to the New World School of the Arts’ band, from Miami.
At the awards ceremony Marsalis presented prizes to each of the 15 finalist bands, but the top winners took home the big cash prizes: the Roosevelt High School Jazz Band accepted $2,000, the Garfield High School Jazz Ensemble accepted $1,500 and the New World School of the Arts High School Jazz Ensemble, accepted $1,000.
After the awards ceremony each winning band got to play two more Ellington compositions without the pressure of a competition. They may still have felt a certain amount of pressure, however, as Marsalis joined each band for one of their celebratory numbers and the last thing you want to do is screw up the harmony when Wynton’s blowing a lead. The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (LCJO) then performed a set of Ellington compositions including a rendition of “C Jam Blues” with Cowell at the piano.
Awards were also given to individual band sections and solists from all 15 bands and two vocalists took home the Ella Fitzgerald Outstanding Vocalist Award: Amanda Brown (pictured) from LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and the Performing Arts in New York and Ann Pedersen from Rio Americano High School in Sacramento, Calif. A full list of winning bands, sections, and soloists follows.
High school jazz band directors seeking more information on Essentially Ellington should contact Nyala Wright, Education Assistant, at (212) 258-9812 or [email protected]
Full list of 2002 AWARDS: