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Jazz at Lincoln Center announces the 15 bands that will compete in Essentially Ellington this spring

The Newark Academy band performing at Frederick P. Rose Hall
Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center
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The Newark Academy jazz band performing at Frederick P. Rose Hall

The Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival, now in its 27th year, is an annual rite for band programs across the country, and a flagship event for Jazz at Lincoln Center. For the last couple of years, it has also necessarily been a virtual exchange — meaning the competing high school bands performed over videoconference, in the manner and mode to which we've all grown accustomed.

That changes with the 2022 edition of the Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival, which will take place in person — under an elaborate series of safety protocols — at Jazz at Lincoln Center's home, Frederick P. Rose Hall, this May 5-7. Today the organization announced the 15 high school bands that will compete, including two from New Jersey: Newark Academy, which took second prize in the 2018 edition of EE; and Jazz House Kids, which took that same honor in 2013 and 2014.

Here is a moment from last year's final concert, which found the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performing in person but for a virtual audience. The song is "Topsy" — an Eddie Durham tune that actually first appeared in the book of the Count Basie band, before scoring separate hits for Benny Goodman and Cozy Cole.

Here is the complete list of bands in competition:

  • Beloit Memorial High School (Beloit, WI)
  • Bothell High School (Bothell, WA)
  • Byron Center High School (Byron Center, MI)
  • Foxboro High School (Foxboro, MA)
  • Jazz House Kids (Montclair, NJ)
  • Mount Si High School (Snoqualmie, WA)
  • New World School of the Arts (Miami, FL)
  • Newark Academy (Livingston, NJ)
  • Noblesville High School (Noblesville, IN)
  • Orange County School of the Arts (Santa Ana, CA)
  • Osceola County School for the Arts (Kissimmee, FL)
  • Plano West Senior High School (Plano, TX)
  • Rio Americano High School (Sacramento, CA)
  • Roosevelt High School (Seattle, WA)
  • Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble (Raleigh, NC)

For more information about Essentially Ellington, visit the official website at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, Nate Chinen is editorial director at WBGO and a regular contributor to NPR Music.