The Tucson Jazz Institute was selected the winner of the 22nd annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival held May 11-13 in New York City. It was the third time in the past five years that the Southern Arizona music school has taken top honors, having previously prevailed in 2013 and 2014.
Essentially Ellington is a free yearlong program involving 4,500 high school jazz bands from throughout North America that aims to elevate musicianship, broaden perspectives, and inspire performance. Participating schools submitted recordings of three tunes chosen from the Jazz at Lincoln Center’s library. Fifteen finalists are selected through a rigorous screening process and receive an in-school workshop led by a professional musician before coming to New York City to perform before a panel of judges headed by Wynton Marsalis. The three-day Festival concludes with the three top-rated bands performing with the JLC Orchestra in Frederick P. Rose Hall.
Taking second place was the Denver School of the Arts. The Dillard Center for the Arts from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida took third place, and Newark Academy from Livingston, New Jersey received an honorable mention. The other 11 finalists represented high schools from Byron Center, Michigan; Champaign, Illinois: Edmonds, Snoqualmie, and Mountlake Terrace, Washington; Foxborough and Lexington, Massachusetts; Kissimm