For more than a decade now, Jazz at Lincoln Center has provided a major showcase for the best of high school jazz bands across the United States with its Essentially Ellington competition. It now has company and needs to share the spotlight.
The first Charles Mingus High School Jazz Band Competition took place in late February at the Manhattan School of Music. Five high school combos and five big bands from across the Northeast competed in the finals, pared down from 60 applicants.
There were two winning ensembles in the Combo Category: King Phillip Regional High School Combo 1 from Wrentham, Mass. for a non-specialized high school; Manhattan School of Music’s own won for a combo from a performing arts high school.the Eastman Youth Jazz Orchestra from Rochester, N.Y. took high school big band honors.
Just as the Essentially Ellington competition features the bands performing Duke Ellington material, the new kid on the block, as competitions go, features work from Mingus’s enormous and varied book (including “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love,” ironically). Next year's competition will be expanded to include high schools nationwide.
Sue Mingus, Director of Let My Children Hear Music, and Justin DiCioccio, Assistant Dean and Chairman of the Manhattan School of Music Jazz Arts program, produce the event.