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‘Essentially Ellington’ honors two bands led by UMass alumni

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Essentially Ellington

Two outstanding high school jazz bands (led by UMass alumni) are among 15 named to the 23rd Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival at Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

UMass Music alumna Lisa (Cavanaugh) Linde ’92 leads the Newton (MA) South High School jazz band in their first appearance at Essentially Ellington. UMass Band alum John Currey ’92 leads the Champaign (IL) Central High School jazz band, making their fifth appearance.

Essentially Ellington 2018

John Currey (2nd from left) and Lisa Linde (3rd from right) recognized at Lincoln Center.

Both groups earned individual honors.

Newton South High School

  • Outstanding Saxophone Section
  • Honorable Mention, Alto Saxophone
  • Outstanding Clarinet
  • Outstanding Trumpet

Champaign Central High School

  • Outstanding Brass Section
  • Outstanding Tenor Saxophone (2)
  • Outstanding Lead Trumpet

This May, the top 15 high school jazz bands in the country participated in the 23rd Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival and were immersed in three days of mentoring, jam sessions, and workshops. The competition culminated in a concert wherein each top-placing band performed with their choice Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member as a soloist. The final concert also featured the world-renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis – whose members served as mentors for the finalist bands throughout the week – performing repertoire made famous by Duke Ellington.

Each finalist band was chosen by a panel of judges comprised of distinguished jazz musicians and historians: Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Managing and Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis; composer, arranger, acclaimed pianist Bill Charlap; big band leader, drummer and Grammy-nominated recording artist Jeff Hamilton; acclaimed musician and former Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member Todd Williams and renowned flautist, saxophonist, composer, educator, and EE Alum Erica von Kleist.

At the ceremony, Wynton Marsalis presented awards to each of the 15 finalist high school jazz bands. Dillard Center for the Arts accepted the first place trophy and an award of $5,000. Newark Academy accepted the second place trophy and an award of $2,500. Tucson Jazz Institute accepted the third place trophy with an award of $1,000. Roosevelt High School and Beloit Memorial High School received honorable mention with an award of $750. The remaining ten bands were each awarded cash awards of $500. All monetary awards are to be used for improving the jazz education programs of each respective high school.

UMass Band alum Doug Olsen ’93 teaches at Medfield (MA) High School, whose jazz band has been an Essentially Ellington finalist in 2005, 2008, and 2017.