Video and blog by Barbara Grady
There are 18,400 public high schools in the United States and chances are each one has a jazz band. Of them, 1,550 hoped to be invited to this month’s “Essentially Ellington” High School Jazz Competition & Festival held at Lincoln Center.
Only 15 school bands were selected. Albany High School’s Jazz Band was one of them.
To listen to what makes the Albany Jazz Band stand out, click on this video of the band practicing songs they later performed at “Essentially Ellington.”
Playing with Wynton Marsalis, the legendary trumpeter who is Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, and attending sessions taught by conductor David Berger, saxophonist Jimmy Heath and bassist Rodney Whitaker, the Albany students experienced what it’s like to play in the Big Apple with some of the world’s best under the glittering lights of Lincoln Center.
“For Jazz, New York is one of the biggest hubs, it pretty much is the biggest hub,” said AHS saxophonist Tad Nicol. “It’s really cool to go to the place where it all kind of evolved.”
AHS Instrumental Music Director Craig Bryant said being invited to the festival was the culmination of lots of dedicated work.
“We’ve been trying for a number of years to get in to the festival,” Bryant said. “We worked really hard,” not only practicing but then also preparing an audition CD which turned into a team effort for band members, he said.
The 19 students and their director headed off to the festival on May 7 for three days of jamming, competitions and good listening.
No doubt, some of these kids will be back – as professionals.