By Danny R. Johnson
Jazz and Pop Music Critic
NEW YORK, NY – Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 21st Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival at Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York, NY, proudly announced on Saturday evening, May 7, 2016, that the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts received recognition in the following categories: Among Outstanding Clarinets-ALVIN PAIG; Among Honorable Mentions Alto Sax-JARIEN JAMANILA; Among Outstanding Trumpets-CAMERAHN ALFORQUE; Among Honorable Mention Vocals-EMMA CHRISTIE-FOSTER and JAZMINE VILLALINO.
The Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 21st Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival was held May 5-7, 2016 and was open to high schools across the country who sent in tapes to be considered to be on the finalist list to compete in New York. The 15 Finalists for Essentially Ellington 2016 (in alphabetical order) were: 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).
The finalists convened at Lincoln Center for a few days of rehearsals, workshops and jam sessions. And on Saturday night the top three bands — First Place – New World School of the Arts, Miami, FL, Second Place – Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble, Raleigh, NC, and Third Place – Tucson Jazz Ensemble, Tucson, AZ, each band played with the JALC Orchestra with WYNTON MARSALIS.
This was San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts’ first time competing in this prestigious national competition under the direction of John Reynolds. Reynolds sated to San Diego County News that he and the “musicians were proud and honored to have been a part of such a worthwhile and important event.”
“All of these young men and women of the San Diego band deserve a lot credit for putting forth countless hours of practice and hard word in getting to this point,” Reynolds proudly stated.
Reynolds went on to “thank the parents and school administrators in the San Diego County Unified School District for their priceless commitment and sacrifice in helping the kids with the funds to come to New York.”
The San Diego band had to choose three mostly Duke Ellington pieces for their competition performance. The band had to play the core of the song, and was free to improvise toward alternative introductions and tricky arrangements. In one of the selections ”St. Louis Blues,” for instance, the brass section sassily dragged its rhythm, making the melody line touch down in strange places. In solos, EMMA CHRISTIE-FOSTER and JAZMINE VILLALINO on vocals gave a rousing and delightful interpretation of sassy blues singing! The brass section served notice of their maturity – the rhythm section displayed advanced, altered harmonies that suggested strong lines, faultless intonation and a dynamics-rich narrative — more than one expects, certainly, from players so young.
The judges for this event — WYNTON MARSALIS, CHRIS CRENSHAW, JEFF HAMILTON, CHUCK ISRAELS, and LAUREN SEVIAN had a difficult task in selecting the three finalist because all the bands were good in their own unique way.
In addition to the high school competition, JALC announced its FOURTH ANNUAL ESSENTIALLY ELLINGTON DR. J. DOUGLAS WHITE STUDENT COMPOSITION/ARRANGING CONTEST WINNER – Joseph Block, Germantown Friends School, of Philadelphia, PA received the honors.
In the spirit of creativity and continuing the jazz legacy, Essentially Ellington encouraged young musicians to compose and arrange by holding the FOURTH Annual EE Dr. J. Douglas White Student Composition/Arranging Contest. Each submission was critiqued by Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) saxophonist, composer, arranger, and educator, Ted Nash, and the winning selection was recorded by the JLCO at their annual EE recording session on May 4, 2016. In addition, the winning composer received cash prize, a composition lesson with Mr. Nash, and a trip to New York City to observe the JLCO recording session and the 2016 Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival.
Jazz Ensemble San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts – San Diego, California
Director: John Reynolds Reeds: Casiano Cabrera, Jarien Jamanila, Albert Dimdiman, Alvin Paige, TJ Smith Trumpets: Angelo Biares, Arthur Valdez, Arthur Valdez, Camerahn Alforque, Elijah Santos, Rebeca Villafana Trombones: Blazeden Bautista, Ian Rawlinson, Jocel Centino, Wesley Etienne Piano: Jill Murillo, Naomi Alonso Guitar: Deion Seruelo, Marshall Holland, Preston Holland Bass: Ashley Del Castillo, Julian Esparza Drums: Johncarlo Grady, Johnny Steele Vocals: Emma Christie- Foster, Jazmine Villalino.
The Jazz Ensemble from San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) is a dynamic group of young musicians hungry for swing. Representing a very diverse Title I school, SCPA Jazz Ensemble performs frequently throughout the western United States in concerts and jazz festivals. Additionally, SCPA is the flagship jazz ensemble for the San Diego Unified School District, one of the largest districts in the United States. As this is SCPA’s first year at Essentially Ellington, they are very excited to participate with the other accomplished bands from across the U.S. They sincerely hope to represent their region well and are humbled by the opportunity to perform. SCPA is truly grateful for the opportunity that Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Essentially Ellington program provides.
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis (JLCO), comprising 15 of the finest jazz soloists and ensemble players today, has been the Jazz at Lincoln Center resident orchestra since 1988. This remarkably versatile orchestra performs and leads educational events in New York, across the U.S., and around the globe; in concert halls, dance venues, jazz clubs, and public parks; and with symphony orchestras, ballet troupes, local students, and an ever-expanding roster of guest artists. Under Music Director Wynton Marsalis, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performs a vast repertoire, from rare historic compositions to Jazz at Lincoln Center-commissioned works, including compositions and arrangements by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fletcher Henderson, Thelonious Monk, Mary Lou Williams, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Charles Mingus, and many others.
The orchestra has also performed collaborations with leading symphony orchestras and has been featured in education and performance residencies throughout the world. The JLCO’s most recent recordings, including 2016’s The Abyssian Mass, can be heard on Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Blue Engine Records (www.jazz.org/blueengine), a new platform dedicated to making Jazz at Lincoln Center’s vast archive of recorded concerts, as well as new studio and live recordings, available to audiences everywhere.
Founding leadership support for Essentially Ellington is provided by The Jack and Susan Rudin Educational and Scholarship Fund. Major support is provided by Jessica and Natan Bibliowicz, Alfred and Gail Engelberg, Casey Lipscomb, Dr. J. Douglas White and the King-White Family Foundation, Augustine Foundation, Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation, the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, and United Airlines.