Three Local Schools, Including First-Timer, Named Finalists In Essentially Ellington

Feb 19, 2014

Three western Washington high schools are among the 15 finalists in the annual Essentially Ellington competition and festival in New York.

Garfield High School, Roosevelt High School and first-timer Mount Si High School will compete against other finalists from around the country at the Lincoln Center in May. 

The prestigious Essentially Ellington competition in New York is sometimes called the Super Bowl of high school jazz band contests.

Mount Si High’s music director Matt Wenman says he’s just thrilled to have his band chosen to compete alongside Roosevelt and Garfield, who are frequent finalists in the competition. In fact, when he got the call from the folks at Jazz at Lincoln Center telling him Mount Si was in, “I pretty much ran around the house screaming,” he said. “I was pretty excited.”

This is Wenman’s first year as director, and he credits the Snoqualmie Valley School District’s long tradition of supporting strong music programs for his jazz band’s success. Getting his 22 jazz band members to New York in May for the competition will likely involve some pretty intense fundraising, Wenman says, but he doesn’t think it will be a problem. Last summer, he says the program was able to raise $14,000 in 30 days to start a drum line program.

“And that was just a really big show of support for the music program,” he said.

For Wenman, supporting music programs is about giving kids a well-rounded education.

”They need science, they need math, they need language arts, but they also need things that are going to help them connect those skills to their heart and to their soul. And that’s where music and the arts comes in, and it’s a privilege to be a part of that process with them,” he said. 

The competition, which will be held during the weekend of May 8, will be streamed online. Roosevelt placed third last year , after coming in second the prior year. Garfield has won the competition four times in past years.