Music Schools

Hall High School Concert Jazz Band a National Finalist for ‘Essentially Ellington’

Hall Jazz musicians, wearing slit masks and with special bell covers on their instruments, are distanced in the Hall auditorium as they record this year's performance of Pops 'N Jazz. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

The concert band from West Hartford’s Hall High School Concert id one go 15 national finalists for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Essentially Ellington Festival with Wynton Marsalis.


Hall High School’s Concert Jazz Band was selected as one of 15 national finalists for this year’s Essentially Ellington festival, the nation’s premier jazz education event with Jazz at Lincoln Center and Wynton Marsalis.

This is the third time in the last four years that Hall has achieved this prestigious honor, in addition to its sections and individual soloists receiving awards in 2018 and 2019. Hall High School Concert Jazz Band has been selected as a finalist for Essentially Ellington 12 times in its 25 year history.

Faced with enormous challenges due to concerns around COVID-19, band directors and high school student jazz musicians around the country have applied innovative and creative approaches to perform with and learn from each other. Inspired by this dedication and commitment, Jazz at Lincoln Center continues its support for this unique community and announced plans to salute these high school students at the 2021 Virtual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Festival on June 4 and 5, 2021.

Essentially Ellington is the nation’s premier jazz education program which has helped foster the talent and appreciation for jazz music to over one million young musicians throughout its history. The annual festival marks the culmination of the annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program, which includes non-competitive regional festivals around the country, free transcriptions of original recordings by Duke Ellington and other seminal big band composers and arrangers, additional teaching resources, free adjudication, and more.

A video of Wynton Marsalis announcing the 2021 Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Festival finalists can be viewed below.

West Hartford Public Schools has received the Kennedy Center Award for Excellence in Arts Education in recognition of their program. Hall’s Concert Jazz Band won first place at the Berklee School of Music Jazz Festival in Boston in 2016, 2018, and 2019. At the National Jazz Festival in February 2020, Concert Jazz Band and Jazz Combo I both won first place in their competition categories, along with a number of Superior and Outstanding Musicianship Awards for members of the band.

Hall jazz musicians have continued making music well beyond high school. Hall Concert Jazz Band’s notable alumni include renowned jazz musicians Jimmy Macbride (drums), Garrett Sayers (bass), Drew Sayers (sax), Richie Barshay (drums), Joel Frahm (tenor sax), Erika von Kleist (alto sax, flute & piccolo), Brad Mehldau (piano), Pete McGuinness (trombone), Noah Preminger (tenor sax), Alexa Tarantino (alto sax), and Gregg Kallor (piano).

Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 2021 Virtual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Festival events, free and open to the public, will be announced soon and posted here.

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