MAY 5 2016, 4:03 PM ET
San Diego Students Compete in ‘Essentially Ellington’ Jazz Competition
by SYLVIA CUNNINGHAM
The Jazz Ensemble of the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts SD School of Creative and Performing Arts
When Dr. John Reynolds was being interviewed for a teaching position at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts a few years ago, he made a
“He said to me, ‘Give me four years, and we will be on the national stage,'” said Richard Trujillo, the artistic director at the school.
Now as Reynolds and his Jazz Ensemble of 25 young musicians take on New York to compete in Jazz At Lincoln Center’s prestigious Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival, Trujillo can say Reynolds kept his word.
“He’s just such a dedicated teacher,” Trujillo said. “He’s just so committed and so passionate.”
Reynolds, who is a professional trumpeter and holds a doctorate of musical arts, joked that although he wishes he could take all the credit, it’s due to his students’ hard work that they’ve achieved the goal he set.
“There’s a real deep soulfulness that exists in this group, and I think that really carries over into our music,” Reynolds said. “I think when you see the band play, you can tell that they’re really having a good time on stage.”
The population at the San Diego SCPA is diverse; more than a third of students are Hispanic, a little less than a quarter are Filipino, nearly 15 percent are Black and close to another 15 percent are Caucasian. More than half of the student body receives free or reduced lunches.
Trujillo said some may face challenges in their home life, but the students are united by their passion and a desire to succeed.
“Out of adversity comes some of the most brilliant artistry, and that’s from a historical perspective and it certainly holds true to what we do here,” Trujillo said.
Trujillo said the demeanor of the student musicians in the Jazz Ensemble echoes that of their teacher – calm, reserved, “cool.” But that was not the case when Reynolds broke the news that out of nearly 100 high school jazz bands that entered the competition across North America, their group had been selected as one of the 15 finalists that would perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center from May 5 through May 7.
Reynolds played it cool when he told them: He started off with the bad news. Since he had started teaching at the school, he took the group to the Reno Jazz Festival – they had even begun to fundraise for this year’s trip.
The Jazz Ensemble of the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts
“I came in and said, ‘We’ve had some logistical things fall through. There’s no way that we’re going to be able to do the Reno Festival this year,'” Reynolds recalled. “And I let that kind of sink in for a second, and then I said, ‘Because we have to go to New York,’ and of course they were all screaming and hollering.”
Trujillo said watching their unbridled enthusiasm was something special.
“It was kind of like our version of a football team winning the state championship. They went nuts, and once they came back down, they were all cool cats again,” Trujillo said.
Raising the funds for the trip was a combined effort between Reynolds, the school, and a group of parents who support the jazz program. Because they raised more than $30,000, Trujillo said it was possible for all students to travel without dipping into their own pockets.
“Sometimes you need the village, and the village came through,” Trujillo said.
Reynolds said being part of the festival is a dream come true for him and his students, the majority of whom had never been to New York before.
“Being able to rub shoulders with some of the finest living musicians today is really a big deal,” Reynolds said. “It’s one of those life changing events that I think is going to reverberate for a long time.”
The Essentially Ellington finalists will perform and compete live from Jazz at Lincoln Center on Friday and Saturday.
The SCPA Jazz Ensemble is 1 of 15 bands in the US in Canada selected for the Essentially Ellington finals! Read the official press release!
For Immediate Release
Jazz at Lincoln Center Announces
15 Finalists Bands to Compete in
21st Annual Essentially Ellington
High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival
NEW YORK, NY – February 17, 2016 – Jazz at Lincoln Center proudly announces the 15 finalist bands that will compete in the 21st Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival – one of the most innovative jazz education events in the world – at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s home, Frederick P. Rose Hall, on May 5 – 7, 2016. The following finalists are among nearly 100 high school jazz bands across North America that entered the competition. Each school submitted recordings of three tunes performed from charts from Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington library. Nearly 3,800 high school bands will have participated in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 2015-16 Essentially Ellington program and benefited from free charts and resources.
The 2016 Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Finalists:
Beloit Memorial High School (Beloit, WI)
Byron Center High School (Byron Center, MI)
Crescent Super Band (American Fork, UT)
Foxboro High School (Foxboro, MA)
Garfield High School (Seattle, WA)
Jazz House Kids (Montclair, NJ)
Lexington High School (Lexington, MA)
Mount Si High School (Snoqualmie, WA)
New World School of the Arts (Miami, FL)
Roosevelt High School (Seattle, WA)
San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts (San Diego, CA)
Sun Prairie High School (Sun Prairie, WI)
Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble (Raleigh, NC)
Tucson Jazz Institute (Tucson, AZ)
University High School (Orange City, FL)
2016 J. Douglas White Essentially Ellington Student Composition/Arranging Contest Winner:
Joseph Block, Germantown Friends School (Philadelphia, PA)
Each band was invited to submit a recording, and 15 finalists were selected through a rigorous screening process. Each finalist band receives an in-school workshop led by a professional musician before coming to New York to put up their “Dukes” and perform before esteemed judges Lauren Sevian, Jeff Hamilton, Chuck Israel, Chris Crenshaw and Wynton Marsalis.
On May 5, the finalist bands will arrive in New York City to spend three days immersed in workshops, jam sessions, rehearsals and performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center. On May 7, the Competition & Festival will conclude with a concert and awards ceremony featuring the three top-placing bands and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.
Joseph Block, the winner of the 2016 J. Douglas White Essentially Ellington Student Composition/Arranging Contest :will have his composition recorded by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. In addition, the winning composer will receive a $1,000 cash prize, a composition lesson with Ted Nash, and a trip to New York City to observe the recording session and the Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival. The entire weekend of EE events, including the final concert featuring the three top-placing bands and the JLCO, will be webcast live on jazz.org/live.
The Competition & Festival is the culmination of the annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program (EE), which also includes non-competitive regional festivals around the country, teaching resources, a summer Band Director Academy, newsletters, and more. The year-long Essentially Ellington program will have distributed 30,000 newly transcribed scores by the end of this school year. For more information including background, history, photos, and audio recordings of the Essentially Ellington 2016 repertoire, and more, visit: jazz.org/ee