Jazz Hands! NW High School Bands Win Top Honors

Not to toot our own horns, but why shouldn’t we? Last month, we wrote about the fierce Garfield/Roosevelt high school jazz band rivalry continued at this month’s Essentially Ellington competition. Once again, Seattle high school bands took top honors at the 2009 Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition in New York. Bands performed pre-selected Duke Ellington compositions and, for the first time ever, arrangements by Mary Lou Williams (a preeminent female jazz musician and contemporary of Ellington). Garfield High School, directed by Clarence Acox, played its way into first place and last year’s blue-ribbon winner, Roosevelt High School, directed by Scott Brown, secured this year’s second-place trophy. In addition to winning prize money, jazz-legend Wynton Marsalis honored each of the top three bands by playing a piece with them at the final awards concert. 

It’s an honor just to be selected to compete at Essentially Ellington (no, it really is since 107 high schools from across the country vied for one of the 15 spots at the final competition). Bellevue’s Newport High School was also chosen to attend and won individual honors for their alto saxophone, piano, and guitar playing. Unlike Ellington who once said that he probably missed more lessons than he attended, these outstanding high-school students have dedicated their hearts and plenty of soul into becoming the best of the bands.

To hear these bands jam for yourself, catch the Roosevelt High School Jazz band at the Triple Door on June 7 and the Garfield High School Jazz band at the Northwest Folklife Festival this Friday, May 22.

-Deanna Duff 

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