NEW YORK (AP) The coronavirus pandemic has altered the annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival, but it will still go on, giving students the chance to show their talents virtually.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the program.

High school bands from around the country traditionally head to Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City for the multi-day competition.

Given the COVID-19 crisis that has led to shutdowns across the nation, there will be no travel; instead, the event will take place from June 8-12 on Jazz at Lincoln Center’s website, social media accounts and also through Zoom.


“This year we are even more committed to recognizing our high school student musicians. We applaud the dedication, spirit and commitment of the students, band directors, parents and schools,” said Wynton Marsalis, who is JALC’s managing and artistic director.

“We may be isolated from one another in this time, but together, we are connecting and expanding our extended family through the deeply human and liberating feeling of jazz.”

Essential Ellington was scheduled to take place May 7 – 9 at Frederick P. Rose Hall, The House of Swing in New York City. In response to growing concerns about the spread of COVID19, Jazz at Lincoln Center postponed the competition and Festival Under the direction of Christopher Dorsey, instrumental music director, this is the Dillard Center for the Arts Jazz Ensemble’s 10th invitation to participate since 2010, winning first place in 2011, 2012 and 2018.


The Fort Lauderdale high school big band was selected from among 106 nationwide that submitted recordings of three tunes from Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Library.

For the first time, the event will also include several international bands. The celebration will end with the crowning of outstanding soloists and outstanding sections.

DILLARD IN THE HOUSE: The Dillard Center for the Arts Jazz Ensemble this year will be Zooming into the Lincoln Center in New York City, on June 8-12, for its 10th invitation since 2010 to participate in the nation’s premier jazz competition for high school students, where Dillard took first place in 2011, 2012 and 2018. Wynton Marsalis is managing and artistic director for Jazz at Lincoln Center, which announced the new plans to celebrate the nation’s top high school big bands.

Essentially Ellington, named after jazz great Duke Ellington, is a free educational program that provides instruction and resources to jazz students nationwide. The competition was originally scheduled to be held this month. For other information visit

The Associated Press contributed to this report.