Since its creation in the 1995-96 school year, the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program has reached more than 300,000 students in more than 3,000 high schools. The program touches all 50 U.S. states, Canada, Australia, and American schools abroad, and has provided more than 90,000 copies of 86 previous unavailable jazz orchestra scores.
This year alone, in preparation for the 15th Annual Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival, more than 9,600 newly transcribed scores and reference recordings have been provided to high school bands in the U.S., Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. (Learn more – Press Release PDF)
Few programs have benefitted more than, or accomplished as much as Seattle’s Garfield and Roosevelt High School’s jazz bands, directed by SRJO co-artistic director and drummer Clarence Acox, and trombonist Scott Brown, respectively. Under their inspired leadership, the outstanding young musicians, as well as those from other Washington schools such as South Whidbey and Mountlake Terrace, have been dominant forces in the annual competition. The roots of their programs date back to the 1960’s when Waldo King first established jazz programs at Seattle’s Garfield, Roosevelt, and Franklin high schools. (Graphic: How it grew PDF)
About a month from now, Garfield and Roosevelt, along with Edmonds-Woodway, will be representing Washington, once again. The preparation is well underway. The repertoire is selected, with tunes spanning the period from 1936 with Mary Lou Williams Walkin’ and Swingin’ to 1967 with her fast and furious blues, New Musical Express, written with Duke Ellington’s Orchestra in mind, honoring her in her centennial year. And there’s plenty of Ellington and Strayhorn between.
To clearly communicate expectations, and help every member of participating bands nail the music, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Music Director Wynton Marsalis and the band have produced more than three hours of rehearsal videos, addressing every player’s part, in every section, of each song in the repertoire. Watch to get a sense of what it takes to get ready.
The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra is dedicated to the preservation and enrichment of this uniquely American art form. We are fortunate to have many professional musicians, music educators, and supporting volunteers participating in initiatives to educate and inspire the next generation to understand, perform, and treasure this music. While Essentially Ellington is the most visible national effort, the day-in day-out efforts of Scott and Clarence, and many other members of the band, make this all possible.
Learn (and listen to) more:
- Index of Festival recording: 2005-2009
- Garfield and Roosevelt 2009 Final Concert performances
- Listen to all the charts published in the Essentially Ellington library
- EyeShotJazz: Daniel Sheehan’s shot of 2009 1st place Garfield High School band