Congratulations to the 2018-19 SPHS Jazz Ensemble I as they competed as a National Finalist in the 24th annual “Essentially Ellington” jazz competition and festival in New York City. The band left early in the morning on May 8th from Milwaukee and arrived at the newly renovated Southwest terminal at LaGuardia airport. They then drove past the Steinway factory where our own Steinway piano came from on their way to Louis Armstrongs’ house in Queens. It was a great tour and very informative on the life and music of the great jazz master. We also had a glimpse of the new Queens College visitor center that is being built across the street from the Armstrong’s house.
It was time for lunch and what better place to eat than the historic Katz Deli on Houston. We had a sampler plate that was fantastic! After lunch it was off to the World One trade center observatory. The weather was clear and we got a great overview of Manhattan. We then proceeded to the Park Central hotel and got a little rest. The day concluded with a walk through Times Square and a big dinner at Carmines.
The next day we took a walk through central park and rode the carousel. After lunch we headed over to Columbus Circle and the cheer tunnel and welcome activities at Jazz at Lincoln Center. The day included a Q & A with Wynton Marsalis, sectionals, a rehearsal in Dizzy’s Coca Cola Jazz Club, dinner and a Jam session.
The third day included a rehearsal at a rehearsal studio used by many broadway shows and travelling music acts. As it turns out, Pat Matheny had taken our studio over so we had to go to plan B in studio 3. It all worked out great. We had lunch in the Atrium and performed around 5pm - the band did a fine job and had fun playing for such an enthusiastic audience. Later that night we enjoyed dinner and a show at Birdland.
The final day of the festival featured seven bands. We had dinner at Angelo’s Pizza on Broadway and then returned to J@LC to hear the top palcing bands and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra - what a great concert. The night concluded with an awards program. Sun Prairie was awarded: Outstanding Soloist: Kallan Engleson, piano; Outstanding Section: Trombones; Honorable Mention: Megan Rault, Alto Saxophone and Tyler Stoll, Trombone.
The last day in NYC was rainy. We slept in and checked out later in the am. We rode the subway to Grand Central station and enjoyed lunch in Harlem at the famous soul food restaurant, Sylvia’s in Harlem. After a long day, we made it back to LaGuardia where we met up with the other two finalist bands from Wisconsin who all took the last Southwest flight back home to Milwaukee.
Overall, another year of great growth capped off by an unbelievable experience in New York - who would ever believe that students from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin would perform in the heart of New York City and be welcomed by so many outstanding jazz musicians, including 9 time Grammy and pulitzer prize winning jazz trumpeter, Wynton Marsalis. Good work all!