Jazz at Lincoln Center has announced 15 finalists for the 23rd Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival, to be held this spring. Among them is Newark Academy, returning for the second year in a row under the direction of Julius Tolentino.
Last year Newark Academy took honorable mention in the competition, which culminates in a concert and awards ceremony at Frederick P. Rose Hall in Manhattan. Here is the band's performance of "Jack the Bear," which Duke Ellington first recorded in 1940.
Essentially Ellington has been a cornerstone of Jazz at Lincoln Center's educational initiative since it was first introduced. More than 4,600 high school bands around the country now participate in the program, which distributes Ellington charts and transcriptions free of charge. Out of this pool, 109 bands entered the competition this year, each submitting a recording of three pieces from the repertoire.
Newark Academy, a private school in suburban Livingston, N.J., will play alongside competitors from 10 other states. The competition will be held the weekend of May 10-12, with adjudication by a panel including Jazz at Lincoln Center's artistic director, Wynton Marsalis.
Last year, the festivities kicked off with a second-line parade through Columbus Circle, tied to a message about the importance of funding the arts. "I always say public education is one of the pillars of our democracy," Todd Stoll, Jazz at Lincoln Center's Vice President of Education, said at the time, "and the arts define who we are — especially jazz."