The Ballard Talisman

Jazz I is accepted into Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival in New York

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Jazz I, directed by Michael James, performs at their winter concert. (Miles Whitworth)

Jazz I, directed by Michael James, performs at their winter concert. (Miles Whitworth)

Jazz I, directed by Michael James, performs at their winter concert. (Miles Whitworth)

Zoe Bodovinitz, Staff Reporter

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The top jazz band has officially been selected to perform at the 2018 Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival, the most competitive jazz festival in the country. Only 15 jazz bands from around the country are invited to come to New York and participate in the prestigious competition.

Band Director Michael James has been waiting for weeks to hear if their professional recordings of three songs would be enough to qualify for the festival, “Two of our songs were very good. One song had some minor flaws that I thought could possibly keep us out,” James said.

On Feb. 12 James was able to officially tell the band that they were accepted, “They were very excited, a little in awe and shock,” James said. Trumpet player Joe Fotheringham was one of the players most in awe, “The feeling I got when I heard we were selected to play at Ellington is indescribable. I’ve wanted to play at Ellington since eighth grade, and finally getting the opportunity, especially given our hard work and the odds we were up against, is so sweet,” Fotheringham said.

Jazz I will travel to New York in May. Other than performing, the band will get to participate in jam sessions and meet and greets with some of jazz’s greatest names and get to interact with other schools invited.

Mountlake Terrace High School and Roosevelt High School were also accepted and will help represent Washington state. Garfield High School was not selected this year which comes as a surprise since they have gone more than once in the past.

At the festival, each band has 17 minutes of stage time total. “Aside from maybe Carnegie Hall, it’s one of the best highlights ever because the experience is so great for the students,” James said.

Essentially Ellington will wrap up a busy year for Jazz I. They have many performances before they leave for New York including Hot Java Cool Jazz at the Paramount and the Monterey Jazz Festival in March.

Being accepted for Essentially Ellington is a huge achievement for Jazz I and proves that the long practices, hours in the studio and hard work paid off. “This is the most established [national festival] and everyone knows it the most competitive to get into. It’s high stakes,” James said.

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Jazz I is accepted into Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival in New York