christopher-dorsey_web.pngNEW YORK (AP) — The Dillard Center for the Arts of Fort Lauderdale earned an Honorable Mention for a performance on May 12, as two first-time contestants took the top prizes at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 18th annual Essentially Ellington high school jazz band competition in New York City.

At a Sunday-night concert at the Frederick P. Rose Hall, the first-place trophy and $5,000 award were presented by JALC artistic director Wynton Marsalis to the Tucson Jazz Institute’s Ellington Big Band directed by Doug Tidaback. 

Jazz House Kids, a band founded by a nonprofit jazz education organization in Montclair, N.J., finished second. Third place went to Roosevelt High School of Seattle, WA.

The three-day competition featured 15 finalist bands — chosen from among 96 entries — performing compositions made famous by Duke Ellington’s orchestra. This was the fourth time the Dillard ensemble, directed by Christopher Dorsey, was invited to the elite national high school jazz and band competition that draws applications from nearly 100 bands.

Dillard, the first-place champion the last two years and second-place finisher in 2010, was again selected among the 15 finalists in the competition. 

This year the New York experience for which Dillard students raised $30,000 included seeing Motown the musical on Broadway and visits such as to the Louis Armstrong House Museum.

Two other South Florida schools participated in the Essentially Ellington competition — the Community Arts Program from Coral Gables and New World School of the Arts of Miami.