A Lil Positivity: Meet The Jazz Ed Program Teaching The Next Generation How To Swing

2019 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival - Day 4

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The “Essentially Ellington” Program From Jazz At Lincoln Center Mentors Young Musicians

A jazz education experience that is training teen musicians in the art of all things instrumental is celebrating nearly 25 years of swinging.

The “Essentially Ellington” competition and festival celebrates the musical legacy of the late jazz great Duke Ellington and helps to enhance students’ appreciation for jazz by reinforcing skills like teamwork and discipline.

Part festival, part competition, this month’s free weekend-long arts workshop pairs high school jazz bands with some of the greats in the biz for mentoring, coaching and jam sessions, and the bands later face off against each other for the title of best in show.

“Essentially Ellington is not a product,” Lincoln Center Managing and Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis said. “It’s something (where) we try to teach our musicians and our younger people fundamental and democratic American values, without a political bent, through the works of the great Duke Ellington.”

Duke Ellington

Source: JP Jazz Archive / Getty

Last week, one of the program’s most accomplished alumni, trumpeter Riley Mulherkar, spoke to Marsalis about the impact “Essentially Ellington” has on young musicians.

In front of an audience, which included NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, Mulherkar recalled his time in the “Essentially Ellington” program, which culminated in his Seattle high school winning first place. Mulherkar also said the legendary jazz bassist Ron Carter taught him and his fellow students the “swing” jazz style in just an hour.

To date, more than one million students from 7,000 schools nationwide have participated in the “Essentially Ellington” program, Marsalis said. This year’s winners were Roosevelt High School, from Seattle, WA, Dillard Center for the Arts, in Fort Lauderdale, FL and Foxboro High School, of Foxboro, MA.

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