Win or lose, simply having an opportunity to compete for the most prestigious award given to a high school jazz band is a delightful feather in the collective caps of Edmonds-Woodway High School’s 23 jazz musicians headed to New York Thursday.
But winning — or even placing in the top three — at the 15th Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival running Saturday-Monday would be even better, said E-W band director Jake Bergevin.
“I’m not a very competitive band director,” Bergevin said by phone Tuesday. “We don’t talk about beating other schools. But the band is agreeing with me that we are sick of Garfield and Roosevelt getting all the media attention.”
Seattle’s Garfield and Roosevelt high schools have either won or been chosen as a top-three finalist in Essentially Ellington in the past several years. Edmonds-Woodway has been selected twice — in 2003 and 2007 — to travel to New York for the competition, in itself no small feat given only 15 high school bands are chosen nationwide. But the band has not yet made it to the top three.
“We would like to be in the finals to get on the radar,” Bergevin said. Placing in the top three carries another perk, he added: A chance to perform with Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, as guest soloist. Marsalis also serves as a judge for the competition.
After arriving in Manhattan Thursday night, band members — and the group of parents and teachers accompanying them — will have a chance to explore New York Friday, Bergevin said. The weekend will be devoted to workshops and jam sessions, and the 15-piece Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will serve as mentors for the 15 bands throughout the weekend.
The competition itself will occur Sunday and Monday, with seven bands playing Sunday and eight on Monday. (The EWHS band scheduled to perform at 1 p.m. Monday.) Finalists and winners will be announced Monday evening, followed by a Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performance and an awards ceremony honoring outstanding soloists, sections and the top three bands.
Preparation for the competition is an “all-year process,” starting with band auditions in the fall, Bergevin said. After receiving music — rewritten “exactly the way Duke Ellington would have played it” — from the competition in November, the band in January made and sent off a recorded performance of three songs, he said. Notification of their selection among the top 15 — out of 96 bands that submitted entries worldwide — came in February. The months since have been a whirlwind of practice and fundraising — from candy sales to community concerts — to cover the $1,200-per-person cost of the trip.
Congratulations to the following jazz band members on this stellar accomplishment:
Dominic Forbush (not able to attend)
Dylan Allrud-Faltisco (piano/trumpet)
Preston Sahabu (piano)
Loren Fuell – guitar
John Davis – guitar
Alex Dyring – bass
Cory Franklin – bass
Miles Laven – drums
Zac Clute – vibes/percussion