C'mon In, The Water's Great!
A decade has passed from the time when I first stepped foot onto the stage at Avery Fisher Hall to perform at Essentially Ellington
. Since then, the competition has changed: there are more bands; band directors can attend workshops that help further their student's jazz education; students can now compete in different regions of the United States; and the annual festival is now held at Jazz at Lincoln Center's new home at Columbus Circle. All of these changes are helping students achieve higher levels of musical excellence and are inspiring more and more young musicians to explore the music of Duke Ellington. However, one thing remains the same: each of these bands will learn a valuable lessonTHE lesson if you will. It doesn't matter where you're from, how far you've traveled, how much technical mastery you've achieved or how many awards and accolades you've won in the past. As each band dives head first into the challenges of performing Ellington's music, they begin to realize that they're not there to perfect their vibrato or to display a show of fast fingers. Quite simply, they've come to swing.