ROCHESTER, NY — Formed just last fall, the Eastman Youth Jazz Ensemble has been selected as one of the top 15 bands from around the nation — and one of only two from New York State — in the Eighth Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival, sponsored by Jazz at Lincoln Center. The ensemble, part of the Eastman School of Music’s Community Education Division (CED), now will compete for more than $11,000 in cash awards at the competition finals in New York City this May.
Directed by Howard Potter, Eastman’s new associate dean for community and continuing education and a percussionist himself, the Eastman Youth Jazz Ensemble features 21 high school student-musicians from 12 Rochester-area school districts and one Buffalo-area district. All study privately through Eastman’s CED.
“This is an incredible victory for this exceptional young band,” said Potter. “They’ve worked hard in a very short amount of time. To receive an honor like this says a lot about their abilities and potential.”
The Essentially Ellington Competition shares Duke Ellington compositions with high school jazz bands, encourages the study and performance of Ellington’s music, and fosters mentoring relationships between students and professional musicians. This year, six newly transcribed Ellington scores and educational materials were sent to more than 1,200 high school jazz bands, of which 133 — including Eastman’s Youth Jazz Ensemble — entered the competition by submitting a recording of three of the works.
As finalists, the group will travel to New York for a three-day festival (May 17-19) that includes workshops, rehearsals, a banquet dinner, and jam sessions with members of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (LCJO). In the two-part competition on Sunday (May 18) and Monday (May 19) in Avery Fisher Hall, a distinguished panel of judges — including Jazz at Lincoln Center Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis — will judge each band’s performance of three Ellington works. Later that evening, the top three bands will perform in concert alone and with Marsalis as soloist, followed by the LCJO performing an all-Ellington set. (Tickets to the concert are $20; they are available by phone at 212-721-6500 or online at www.jazzatlincolncenter.org.) Cash awards, which go toward enhancing the schools’ jazz programs, will be presented at the final concert.
In addition, Jazz at Lincoln Center will send a professional musician/clinician to Eastman and the other finalist schools in April to lead an intensive daylong workshop of rehearsals, lessons, and master classes.
“ This is an exciting time for these kids,” said Potter. “They have a lot to look forward to this spring.”
The members of the Eastman Youth Jazz Ensemble are:
|Michael Kujawski, bass||Rush-Henrietta High School||Grade 12|
|Dave Goebel, drum set||Rush-Henrietta High School||Grade 11|
|Chris Potter, percussion/set||Penfield High School||Grade 10|
|Matthew L. Valerio, piano||Gates-Chili High School||Grade 11|
|Simon Fletcher, guitar||Rush-Henrietta High School||Grade 12|
|Christopher Creech||Williamsville South High School||Grade 12|
|Nick Finzer||Hilton High School||Grade 10|
|Tim Craig||Gates-Chili High School||Grade 9|
|Craig R. Sauers||Greece Olympia High School||Grade 11|
|Mark A. Dudek||Brockport High School||Grade 11|
|Michael Cottone||Rush-Henrietta High School||Grade 12|
|William Mehls||Canandaigua Academy||Grade 12|
|Andrew Kindle||McQuaid Jesuit High School||Grade 10|
|Katie Runde, clarinet||Pittsford Sutherland High School||Grade 12|
|Brian Luczkiewicz, tenor sax||Williamsville South High School||Grade 12|
|Nick Brust, alto sax||Webster High School||Grade 10|
|Anthony Rocco LiButti, alt.sax||Greece Arcadia High School||Grade 10|
|Andrew Murphy, tenor sax||Fairport High School||Grade 12|
|Tyler Gauldin, alto sax||Hilton High School||Grade 10|
|Jon Papas, baritone sax
& bass clarinet
|Fairport High School||Grade 12|
|Aaron Q. Johnson, vocals||Rush-Henrietta High School||Grade 12 (not on recording)|
The following have assisted Potter in directing the ensemble: CED pianist Paul Hofmann; guest clinicians Bill Tiberio (band director, Fairport High School), Brian Zimmer (band director, Gates-Chili High School), and Bill Dobbins (conductor, Eastman Jazz Ensemble); as well as Eastman graduate and undergraduate students.
Note to editors: A photo of the Eastman Youth Jazz Ensemble will be available upon request after March 17.