Today, in a Facebook Live event, Jazz at Lincoln Center announced the 15 U.S. bands who will be competing in the 2022 Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival. See the announcement here. One of those selected is NC’s own Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble, directed by CVNC writer Gregg Gelb. TYJE has earned the Outstanding Community Band Award seven years in a row since 2012 at The Carolina Jazz Festival, North Carolina Regional Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Festival at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The 2015-16 ensemble was selected to go to this national comeptition and earned second place (out of an original field of 92 ensembles). They are the first and only group from North Carolina selected for this honor, and subsequently they have consistently been selected as a finalist during the 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 seasons.

From the announcement:

Returning to an in-person format for the first time since 2019, Jazz at Lincoln Center announced today the 27th annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival, the hallmark program for the largest jazz education network in the world. Grounded in the nonprofit JALC’s 34-year history of educational excellence in jazz, Essentially Ellington has fostered the talent and appreciation for jazz music in over one million young musicians – with alumni including the likes of GRAMMY-nominated bassist Carlos Henriquez, rising star trumpeter Summer Camargo, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, and acclaimed jazz pianist Aaron Diehl – since the program’s founding in 1995. 

Following virtual iterations of the festival in 2020 and 2021, a screening process conducted by prominent jazz educators and musicians including Steve Fidyk, Erica von Kleist, Tatum Greenblatt, and Joseph Jefferson has chosen the 15 top high school-age jazz bands in the country from a competitive pool of 89 schools, inviting them to New York City to learn, collaborate, perform, and compete for top honors alongside fellow musicians. 

The high school ensembles participating in Essentially Ellington in 2022 are:

Beloit Memorial High School (Beloit, WI) Directed by Chris Behrens 

Bothell High School (Bothell, WA) Directed by Philip Dean 

Byron Center High School (Byron Center, MI) Directed by Marc Townley 

Foxboro High School (Foxboro, MA) Directed by Aaron Bush 

Jazz House Kids (Montclair, NJ) Directed by Nathan Eklund 

Mount Si High School (Snoqualmie, WA) Directed by William Leather

New World School of the Arts (Miami, FL) Directed by Jim Gasior 

Newark Academy (Livingston, NJ) Directed by Julius Tolentino  

Noblesville High School (Noblesville, IN) Directed by Bethany Robinson 

Orange County School of the Arts (Santa Ana, CA) Directed by John Reynolds 

Osceola County School for the Arts (Kissimmee, FL) Directed by Jason Anderson  

Plano West Senior High School (Plano, TX) Directed by Preston Pierce

Rio Americano High School (Sacramento, CA) Directed by Josh Murray 

Roosevelt High School (Seattle, WA) Directed by Scott Brown 

Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble (Raleigh, NC) Directed by Gregg Gelb 

“Congratulations to the finalists. I’m proud of all Essentially Ellington alumni, the band directors, and the level people are playing on. The level and quality of playing is higher every year,” said Wynton Marsalis, Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. “It has been an honor every single year to work with the judges and to hear kids play and to participate in their development. I look forward to welcoming this fantastic community back to the House of Swing.”

The three-day festival will immerse students in workshops, jam sessions, rehearsals, and performances at the “House of Swing,” Frederick P. Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center. It will also mark the culmination of the annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program, which has reached nearly 7,000 schools and independent bands in 55 countries. The program provides students with insight into American vernacular music and jazz, teaches about the communal history of jazz in a sociopolitical context, and builds awareness and appreciation of historical and contemporary jazz musicians.

In conjunction with the national festival each year, the Essentially Ellington program includes non-competitive Regional Festivals around the country and provides schools with free transcriptions of original recordings by Duke Ellington and other seminal big band composers and arrangers, teaching materials, and other free resources. It has also served as a major talent incubator, with many alums going on to form a new generation of professional musicians. 

As part of the more than 1,000 digital programs made available by Jazz at Lincoln Center since 2020, the Essentially Ellington Festival was held virtually in 2020 and 2021, expanding its reach internationally and connecting high school students to jazz resources and experts online. In 2022, regional festivals will also return as in-person programs in 13 locations, and jazz charts and resources continue to be made available to schools worldwide.

Festival events, including the final concert featuring the top-placing bands and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, will be webcast live. Tickets will be on sale to the public in April. For more information, including background, history, and audio recordings of the Essentially Ellington repertoire, visit:

The Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Festival is media-accessible via Jazz at Lincoln Center social media on Facebook, Twitter: @EssEllington, Instagram: @jazzdotorg.