Essentially Ellington aims to instill a broader understanding of the rich canon of jazz, specifically through the lens of one of its icons. Duke Ellington’s music is core not only to the jazz canon, but also to America’s 20th century musical heritage. Of his more than 2,000 compositions, however, many have never been available for formal study. JALC has addressed this deficiency by annually commissioning the transcription and publication of previously unreleased Ellington scores - 98 scores to date. Three years ago, Essentially Ellington was expanded to encompass the compositions of other seminal big band composers.
During the 2012-13 season, 1,700 (up 10%) schools from around the country will receive membership in the Essentially Ellington program free of charge. In addition to receiving six musical scores, each school will receive rehearsal guides, a reference CD with original recordings of this year’s music, and a DVD of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performing the selected works. We anticipate that approximately 115 member schools will audition for a unique opportunity to participate in Essentially Ellington’s annual Competition & Festival. To be considered for this annual Competition & Festival, ensembles record and submit a CD of three works, including one work from the current year’s repertoire. A panel of judges will review submitted recordings and select 15 finalists (and a non-competitive community ensemble will make 16.) Prior to the Competition & Festival, all 16 bands receive an in-school workshop led by a professional jazz musician and educator. Our 18th annual Competition & Festival will take place in May 2013 with three days of performances, workshops, and master classes at Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York City.
For the more than 350 students who interact with professional musicians, including Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra members and other distinguished guests, and jam with their peers from around the country, the Competition & Festival often represents the pinnacle of their high school performance experience. The top three bands will perform with Wynton Marsalis in a culminating concert in Rose Hall, followed by an awards ceremony that recognizes the achievements of these dedicated students, including special cash awards for the top three bands and certificates of merit to individual instrumentalists, vocalists, and sections. In addition, all bands receive a cash award to support their school’s music program.