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Friday, April 9th, 2021


New York, New York (April 9, 2021) —Faced with enormous challenges due to concerns around COVID-19, band directors and high school student jazz musicians around the country have applied innovative and creative approaches to perform with and learn from each other. Inspired by this dedication and commitment, Jazz at Lincoln Center continues its support for this unique community and today announced plans to salute these high school students at the 2021 Virtual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Festival on June 4—5, 2021.

Today, during a Facebook Live event, Jazz at Lincoln Center Managing and Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis announced the 15 high school-age jazz bands selected to participate in the 26th edition of the nation’s premiere jazz education event. The following were selected from a competitive pool of 66 bands that submitted a recording from Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Library:

2021 Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Finalists:

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

Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts (West Palm Beach, Florida) 
Directed by Christopher de León  

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

Carroll Senior High School (Southlake, Texas) 
Directed by David Lown 

Champaign Central High School (Champaign, Illinois) 
Directed by John Currey 

Dillard Center for the Arts (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) 
Directed by Christopher Dorsey 

Foxboro High School (Foxboro, Massachusetts) 
Directed by Aaron Bush  

Memphis Central High School (Memphis, Tennessee) 
Directed by Ollie Liddell   

Newton South High School (Newton, Massachusetts) 
Directed by Lisa Linde  


Noblesville High School (Noblesville, Indiana) 
Directed by Bethany Robinson  

Olathe Northwest High School (Olathe, Kansas) 
Directed by Robert Davis  

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

Roosevelt High School (Seattle, Washington) 
Directed by Scott Brown  

Tucson Jazz Institute (Tucson, Arizona)
Directed by Johnathan Black  

William H. Hall High School (West Hartford, Connecticut)
Directed by James Antonucci 

Video of Wynton Marsalis announcing the 2021 Virtual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Festival finalists is available here: https://youtu.be/ITOSe2UzkaQ.

Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 2021 Virtual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Festival events, free and open to the public, will be announced shortly and posted on jazz.org/ee.

“The past year has been challenging for education, particularly arts education, however the dedication of the Essentially Ellington community has been unwavering,” said Todd Stoll, Vice President, Education, Jazz at Lincoln Center. “We’re proud to host these talented young people at the virtual Essentially Ellington Festival. The event is the culmination of a year of constant communication with the bands, and virtual workshops hosted by Jazz at Lincoln Center and members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

“Despite the challenges, this is a very exciting time in jazz education,” continued Stoll. “We look forward to bringing the community together to celebrate our young people who have demonstrated commitment to studying, rehearsing, and performing music from Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington library.”

In addition to celebrating the top high school jazz bands in the U.S., Jazz at Lincoln Center will recognize the winner of the 9th Annual Essentially Ellington Dr. J. Douglas White Student Composition and Arranging Contest. This year, out of 23 submissions, the prestigious honor is bestowed upon Daiki Nakajima from Prospect High School in Saratoga, CA. On a date to be announced, Daiki’s winning composition, “Fracture,” will premiere online, along with a public composition and arranging lesson with GRAMMY award-winning musician and longtime Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member, Ted Nash. For his winning composition, Daiki will receive a $1,000 cash prize.

Essentially Ellington is the nation’s premier jazz education program which has helped foster the talent and appreciation for  jazz music to over one million young musicians throughout its history. The annual festival marks the culmination of the annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program, which includes non- competitive regional festivals around the country, free transcriptions of original recordings by Duke Ellington and other seminal big band composers and arrangers, additional teaching resources, free adjudication, and more. 

The Essentially Ellington program has reached nearly 7,000 schools and independent bands in 55 countries. This important  work is made possible by contributions of individuals and institutions who support the mission. Please support Jazz at Lincoln Center in this challenging time to ensure the organization is able to continue to entertain, enrich and expand a global community for jazz through online learning and social media platforms. 

For more information, including background, history, and audio recordings of the Essentially Ellington repertoire, visit: jazz.org/ee.

The Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Festival is media-accessible via Jazz at Lincoln Center social media on Facebook: www.facebook.com/EssentiallyEllington, Twitter: @EssEllington, Instagram: @jazzdotorg.

Jazz at Lincoln Center thanks all of the supporters of 
Essentially Ellington who give us the tools to remain flexible 
and to continue to serve our mission. 

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 Helen and Robert Appel,
 Jody and John Arnhold, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 
Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, 
The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, 
and The Weissman Family Foundation.

Major support made possible through the support of 
America's Cultural Treasures, 
a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Major support also provided by Augustine Foundation, 
Robin and Peter Berger, Susan and J. Alan Kahn, 
and Vital Projects Fund, Inc. 

Generous support is provided by one Anonymous Donor, 
Tina and Jeffrey Bolton, Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Fund, 
Cher Lewis and Daughters Charitable Trust, 
Diane Coffey, Patricia Cliff and Karl Von Frieling, 
Robin and Jay L. Lewis, and Sy Syms Foundation.

Jazz at Lincoln Center proudly acknowledges 
its major corporate partners: 
Bloomberg Philanthropies, Con Edison, 
Entergy, Steinway & Sons, 
and The Coca-Cola Company.

Additional information may be found at jazz.org | Facebook: facebook.com/jazzatlincolncenter | Twitter: @jazzdotorg | Instagram: @jazzdotorg | YouTube: youtube.com/jalc | Livestream: jazz.org/live


Press Inquiries:

Zooey Tidal Jones 

Director, Public Relations and External Communications

Jazz at Lincoln Center