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Essentially Ellington Festival Will Stream

Jazz at Lincoln Center's 25th high-school jazz band festival is taking place online from June 8 to June 12

Roosevelt High School in Seattle took first place in the Essentially Ellington contest.
Roosevelt High School in Seattle took first place in the 2019 Essentially Ellington contest. (photo: Ayano HIsa/Jazz at Lincoln Center)

Jazz at Lincoln Center already had a robust online presence before the coronavirus quarantine began in March; in the face of that quarantine, it has focused on beefing up its web offerings substantially. They now include Essentially Ellington, JALC’s annual festival and competition of high-school jazz bands, which will take place virtually June 8-12 in celebration of the festival’s 25th anniversary.

All events will stream for free on JALC’s website,

In anticipation of the anniversary celebration, Essentially Ellington had (in its October call for applications) expanded the number of finalist bands from 15 to 18. Five international bands have been added to the competition as well. These finalists, comprising more than 400 high-school students, will be able to perform using Internet broadcasting and streaming technology; they can also use that same technology to socially network among themselves.

The performances will be broadcast via Zoom and JALC’s social media platforms.


Newly minted virtual events, including a special edition of JALC managing and artistic director Wynton Marsalis’ “Skain’s Domain” weekly conversation program and from-home performances by Essentially Ellington alumni, have been added to the festival’s itinerary.

In addition, the festival will feature its traditional jam sessions between student contestants and members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra; cheer tunnels for each competing band; and a Q&A with Marsalis. It will also celebrate the winner of the Eighth Annual Essentially Ellington Dr. J. Douglas White Student Composition and Arranging Contest, Leo Steinriede of Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. His composition, “The Rhetorical Situation,” will be performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on June 10.

For more information, including a full schedule of virtual Essentially Ellington events, visit the Essentially Ellington website.