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Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022

Announcing Top 15 High School Jazz Bands Competing at 2022 Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival



Nation’s Premier Jazz Education Event to Feature 15 Top High School-Aged Bands from Across the Country in Performance and Competition at JALC From May 5-7, 2022

New York, NY (February 23, 2022) – Returning to an in-person format for the first time since 2019, Jazz at Lincoln Center announced today the 27th annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival, the hallmark program for the largest jazz education network in the world. Grounded in the nonprofit JALC’s 34-year history of educational excellence in jazz, Essentially Ellington has fostered the talent and appreciation for jazz music in over one million young musicians—with alumni including the likes of GRAMMY-nominated bassist Carlos Henriquez, rising star trumpeter Summer Camargo, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, and acclaimed jazz pianist Aaron Diehl—since the program’s founding in 1995. 

Following virtual iterations of the festival in 2020 and 2021, a screening process conducted by prominent jazz educators and musicians including Steve Fidyk, Erica von Kleist, Tatum Greenblatt, and Joseph Jefferson has chosen the 15 top high school-age jazz bands in the country from a competitive pool of 89 schools, inviting them to New York City to learn, collaborate, perform, and compete for top honors alongside fellow musicians. 

The high school ensembles participating in Essentially Ellington in 2022 are:

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 

Foxboro High School (Foxboro, MA) 

Directed by Aaron Bush 

Jazz House Kids (Montclair, NJ) 

Directed by Nathan Eklund 

Mount Si High School (Snoqualmie, WA) 

Directed by William Leather


New World School of the Arts (Miami, FL) 

Directed by Jim Gasior 

Newark Academy (Livingston, NJ) 

Directed by Julius Tolentino  

Noblesville High School (Noblesville, IN) 

Directed by Bethany Robinson 

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


Rio Americano High School (Sacramento, CA) 

Directed by Josh Murray 

Roosevelt High School (Seattle, WA) 

Directed by Scott Brown 

Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble (Raleigh, NC) 

Directed by Gregg Gelb 

In addition to celebrating the top high school jazz bands in the U.S. and guest bands from around the world, Jazz at Lincoln Center will recognize the winner of the 10th Annual Essentially Ellington Dr. J. Douglas White Student Composition and Arranging Contest. This year, the prestigious honor is bestowed upon Skylar Tang from Crystal Springs Uplands School in Hillsborough, California. Tang’s original composition, “Kaleidoscope” will be performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra during the 27th annual Essentially Ellington Festival. For her winning composition, Tang will receive a $1,000 cash prize, and a public composition and arranging lesson with Grammy Award-winning musician and longtime Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member, Ted Nash.

"Congratulations to the finalists. I’m proud of all Essentially Ellington alumni, the band directors, and the level people are playing on. The level and quality of playing is higher every year," said Wynton Marsalis, Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. "It has been an honor every single year to work with the judges and to hear kids play and to participate in their development. I look forward to welcoming this fantastic community back to the House of Swing."

The three-day festival will immerse students in workshops, jam sessions, rehearsals, and performances at the “House of Swing,” Frederick P. Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center. It will also mark the culmination of the annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program, which has reached nearly 7,000 schools and independent bands in 55 countries. The program provides students with insight into American vernacular music and jazz, teaches about the communal history of jazz in a sociopolitical context, and builds awareness and appreciation of historical and contemporary jazz musicians.

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 alums going on to form a new generation of professional musicians. 

As part of the more than 1,000 digital programs made available by Jazz at Lincoln Center since 2020, the Essentially Ellington Festival was held virtually in 2020 and 2021, expanding its reach internationally and connecting high school students to jazz resources and experts online. In 2022, regional festivals will also return as in-person programs in 13 locations, and jazz charts and resources continue to be made available to schools worldwide.

“We are honored to welcome these exceptional schools to Jazz at Lincoln Center for workshops, performances, and competition in the creative and innovative spirit of Duke Ellington,” added Todd Stoll, Vice President, Education at Jazz at Lincoln Center. “What’s more, this year’s in-person festival will be a testament to how much our Essentially Ellington community has grown, bringing jazz education to even more schools and students across the country through the expansion of our digital initiatives.”

Festival events, including the final concert featuring the top-placing bands and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, will be webcast live. Tickets will be on sale to the public in April. For more information, including background, history, and audio recordings of the Essentially Ellington repertoire, visit: jazz.org/ee.

Today, in a Facebook Live event, Jazz at Lincoln Center announced the 15 U.S. bands who will be competing in the 2022 Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival. See the announcement here: https://bit.ly/3IvjK8Z.

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.

Health and Safety Guidelines

We believe in the power of music to uplift, inspire, and create a sense of community and we are committed to employing all measures to ensure your safety as well as the safety of our artists and staff when visiting or working in the House of Swing.

Jazz at Lincoln Center requires proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 with a vaccine approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a prerequisite to entering, visiting, and working in its facilities.

Beginning March 1, 2022, Jazz at Lincoln Center will require proof of a Covid booster shot for all those eligible in accordance with CDC guidelines

We know that some people are not yet eligible to receive a booster because not enough time has passed since their most recent vaccination. For those people, two weeks must have passed since their second dose in a two-dose vaccine series, or two weeks must have passed since receiving a single-dose vaccine, in order to enter the facility. Once a person becomes eligible for a booster, the booster will then be required for access.

For those that have recently become eligible, we will allow a two-week grace period for access to the facility. After the two weeks have passed, entry will not be allowed until the booster has been received. Recipients of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines become eligible for a booster five months after their second dose, and recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine become eligible two months after their single dose. Learn more about booster eligibility per the CDC here.

Vaccines are now available for children ages 5–11, and fully vaccinated children are welcome at FPRH, two weeks after they have received their final dose. Proof of vaccination is required but Photo ID for children under 12 will not be required as long as they are accompanied by a parent/guardian with valid photo ID.

Jazz at Lincoln Center will consider, on an individual basis, requests for reasonable accommodation to the vaccination requirement for individuals with a qualifying medical condition that prevents them from receiving the vaccination, or who objects to being vaccinated on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs and practices. Please contact reasonableaccommodations@jazz.org for further information.

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 Jody and John Arnhold.

Major support is provided by Augustine Foundation; The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation; Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Fund; and The Weissman Family Foundation.

Generous support is provided by Dr. J. Douglas White and the King-White Family Foundation.

Additional support is provided by Diane Coffey and Michelle Deal Winfield.

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

Press Inquiries:

Resnicow and Associates

Josh Balber, jbalber@resnicow.com or (212) 671-5175 

Lucy Duda, lduda@resnicow.com or (212) 671-5187

Emma Gold, egold@resnicow.com or (212) 671-5186

Alyssa Bendetson

Associate Director, Public Relations and External Communications