This year's competition, on May 14 and 15, marks the tenth Essentially Ellington Competition and the first time that the event has been held at JALC's new Frederick P. Rose Hall.
The finalists include an ensemble from New York's LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and the Performing Arts, which is just a few blocks away from Rose Hall; three bands from schools in Massachusetts; three from Washington state; and one each from California, Connecticut, Illinois, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin. In addition, one group made up of students from multiple schools in Rochester, New York, will compete.
Jazz at Lincoln Center musicians will travel to each of the schools over the next two months in order to help the bands prepare. After the groups arrive in New York, they will participate in additional workshops on May 13 before competing in three sessions on May 14 and 15. Admission to these sessions is free, but tickets, available at the JALC box office, are required. The top three bands will perform in a concert with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra on the evening of May 15.
More than 1,000 schools requested sheet music for the Duke Ellington compositions that will be played at this year's competition: "Happy-Go-Lucky Local" from Deep South Suite, "Isfahan" from The Far East Suite, "I Didn't Know About You," "Purple Gazelle," "Ring Dem Bells," and "V.I.P.'s Boogie." Of those, 111 submitted tapes of performances of three of the works and were considered for the finals.