John Currey, director of Champaign Central High School Jazz Ensemble, along with members of the group, collected a proclamation from Deputy Mayor Michael LaDue declaring April as Jazz Appreciation Month in the City of Champaign.
While Currey accepted the certificate, he had some news of his own: Champaign Central High School Jazz Ensemble was chosen as one of 15 schools across North America to participate in the prestigious high school band festival dubbed Essentially Ellington.
Duke Ellington, the festival’s namesake and a composer, pianist, and bandleader, is responsible for classics of the genre including “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing,” “In a Sentimental Mood,” “St. Louis Blues,” and “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be.
The three-day fest, championed by world-renowned trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, features workshops with jazz musicians and the opportunity to perform at the Lincoln Center in New York City.
The fest doubles as a competition, and if the local jazz ensemble fares well, they will play on stage with Marsalis, Currey says.
The 23-member band learned Ellington’s original scores and compositions, recorded, and sent their interpretations to Essentially Ellington to win a slot.
Essentially Ellington is slated for May 15-17.