Although written during the date provided, this article was republished during 2020 by Nicolas Gorman to put it on the website. The author is unknown.
After countless trips to jazz festivals, from Monterey to Folsom to New York, members from the band program once again made their way to a new performance venue, this time, sharing the stage with some of the biggest names in jazz today.
The Essentially Ellington festival, also called the super bowl of high school jazz, was graced by the presence of Rio’s own AM jazz band. Over the last few years, AM has been chosen as one of the 15 finalists to compete at the festival six times, but for the first time ever, AM placed fourth with honorable mention. Essentially, this makes AM one of the top 4 high school jazz bands in the country– an absolutely incredible accomplishment.
As the highest level of jazz band at Rio, AM members are not only exceptionally talented, they are also extremely dedicated. After being accepted as one of the finalists- no small feat, considering that Rio did not make it last year- AM members spent hours practicing.
In addition to the AM members’ regular practice time at home and in class, a constant stream of rehearsals followed, from 0 period, lunch, after school, sectional, to individual practice times. AM worked hard to compete at the highest level possible as the representatives of Rio at Ellington. The locations where the competition was held in itself is a tremendous accomplishment for any musician.
Senior trombonist, Annie Chernich, recalls that the group had the opportunity to play at the acclaimed Lincoln Center, a dream for many performers.
She said they “played at Jazz at Lincoln Center at Rose Hall, but also got to have a rehearsal in Dizzy’s Den and see the final concert at Avery Fisher Hall… those all felt like hallowed ground. Visiting the city was especially fun because Mr. Murray took us to his neighborhood, cool areas and restaurants, and jazz clubs to hang out.”
During the trip, the group had the opportunity to explore the many sights of New York, as well as the inner workings of the city’s jazz scene.
Fellow senior and trumpet player Iris Shanks says, on the first day of the visit, they “walked from Battery Park to East Village” and even “after a red eye flight we got to hang out in China Town, Little Italy, and The Village.”
AM had the opportunity to work with other top musicians, both at the professional and high school level.
Senior and trumpet player Nick Stanton says “It was the most incredible experience of my time in high school. I learned so much about jazz music from some of the greatest jazz musicians alive. However, most importantly, I got to meet a lot of new people from all over the country that share my passion for this music.”
After such an amazing journey, many AM members were inspired, especially those heading off to college. For Annie, “it brought back a reverence towards the jazz tradition, and a deep appreciation for the music of Duke Ellington. Honestly, there is no other experience like it, and it made me look at my future and to what extent I’ll continue music.”
Essentially Ellington was not only a competition for AM members, it was the trip of a lifetime, an enlightening experience that solidified their passion and true commitment to jazz- while also reminding us all that the Rio band members are exceptionally talented and truly, one of a kind.