When four of the nation’s top 15 high school jazz bands come from one area, it raised a few eyebrows among the jazz cognoscenti at the recent Essentially Ellington jazz festival and competition in New York. The event is named after jazz great Duke Ellington.
Following the Sunday, May 15, announcement that three of those four bands had earned second, third and honorable mention, the only things raised were applauding hands.
The sole honorable mention award of $400 went to Shorewood High School, under the direction of Paul Harshman.
Seattle’s Roosevelt High School placed second and received $750, Mountlake Terrace High School placed third and was given $500. Miami’s magnet performing arts school – the New World School of the Arts – earned top honors in the 10th annual festival and $1,000. Garfield High School, which had won first place the past two years, competed but did not place this year.
All monetary awards go toward improving schools’ jazz programs.
Harshman said he already knew the band had not placed in the top three, but was surprised to find out it would receive an honorable mention award.
“I was so proud of the way they played no matter what,” Harshman said. “It’s like the icing on the cake.”
Each band was chosen from among 15 finalist bands from the United States that came to the competition and festival by way of a panel of judges composed of distinguished jazz musicians. The panel included: David Baker, director of jazz at Indiana University and music director for the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra; David Berger, composer, conductor and Ellington authority; Gunther Schuller, jazz historian, author, composer and conductor; and Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center artistic director.
Individuals and groups from Shorewood also were recognized at the festival. Sam Reid won an outstanding soloist award for his performance on alto saxophone, and Karl Fagerstrom won an outstanding soloist award on drums. Shorewood’s brass section won the only outstanding section award for brass at the competition. A total of 20 Shorewood students competed with the jazz band.