Jazz band selected for prestigious event

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The MHS 7 O'Clock Jazz Band was selected as one of 15 finalists to perform at the 24th annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz  Band Competition & Festival in New York on May 9-11.

"This is a huge honor,'' MHS principal Steve Plank said. "To be selected as one of the best 15 jazz ensembles in the country is an incredible achievement. It's also a wonderful learning opportunity for our students."

The bands were selected from a competitive pool of 112 after submitting recordings of three tunes performed from the Essentially Ellington library. While in New York, the MHS students will participate in workshops, jam sessions and sectionals before competing for top honors. A concert and awards ceremony will take place featuring the top three bands alongside the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.

The MHS jazz band is directed by Doug Brown. Members include:

Woodwinds: Max Newcomer, Ben Foster, Amanda Roesch, Jonathan Downs, Lucy Croasdale and Andrew Stine
Trumpets: Ben Petersen, Rachel Roberson, Alexis Stahnke and Kyra Ginsberg
Trombones: Jack Ohly, Tyler Huff, Greg Scheer and Aaron Stettner
Rhythm: Charlotte Buck (vocals), Rohan Shah (guitar), Althea Wincek (piano), Aaron Brenton (bass), Logan Frey (drums), and Jude Fleischmann (drums)

Two of the other 14 finalists are from the Big Eight Conference: Beloit Memorial and Sun Prairie. The other finalists are: Denver School of the Arts, Dillard Center for the Arts (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Foxboro (Mass.) High School, Garfield High School (Seattle), Mount Si High School (Snoqualmie, Wash.), Neward Academy (Livingston, N.J.), Rio Americano High School (Sacramento, Calif.), Roosevelt High School (Seattle), San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, Tarpon Springs (Fla.) High School, Philharmonic Association (Raleigh, N.C.), and William H. Hall High School (West Hartford, Conn.).

The band performed on Friday, May 10. They weren't one of the three bands to advance to the finals but two MHS performers, Jonathan Downs and Andrew Stine, received special awars. Downs received an Outstanding Tenor Saxophone Award and Stine received an Outstanding Baritone Saxophone Award. The awards were presented by the leader of the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis.

''Essentially Ellington shows off America’s young people at their best,'' Jazz at the Lincoln Center Managing and Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis said in a statement. "High school students from across this nation have worked tirelessly on the highest quality of our orchestral music. They’ve met the challenge of mastering vocal effects on horns, of improvising fresh, new individual ideas, and of swinging, which means embracing and nurturing the common ground, and in these divisive times, it’s important to teach and celebrate our most scared values: freedom of speech, empathetic listening, and constructive engagement with others. These kids have a lot to teach us. I’m looking forward to hearing them play, and to being instructed and inspired by them.

"Duke Ellington envisioned the unlimited creative possibilities afforded to all of us by our way of life. This musician shared that vision and made it real. This is the banner under which we fight. It more enlightened and engaged America.''

Visit the Jazz website to read the news release. Check out the Jazz Academy section to learn more about the program.