Seattle's Child

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Essentially Ellington Seattle finalists

Catch local finalists in top student jazz competition at Paramount Theatre

Roosevelt, Garfield and Bothell high school jazz bands again heading to NYC

If you want to hear some fantastic jazz – and introduce your kids to this toe-tapping musical genre – mark your calendars. 

On March 31 all three of the Seattle-area bands selected as finalists for the 2023 Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition will play in the Starbucks 26th annual Hot Java Cool Jazz concert at Paramount Theatre. 

The local student groups are three of only 15 bands selected out of 100 Ellington competition applicants from across North America. The annual event is one of the most prestigious high school music competitions in the nation.

Essentially Ellington Seattle finalists

Bothell High School’s jazz band competing at the 2022 Essentially Ellington competition. Listen at

Stiff competition

Despite Essentially Ellington inviting applicants from all 50 states and Canada, none of the bands are new to the competition. Together, jazz bands at Garfield High School and Roosevelt High School have made it to the finals more than 40 times since the competition was opened to all U.S. high schools in 1999. Both schools have each won the competition four times. 

This year is the second finalist turn for Bothell High School’s jazz band, which won that honor in 2022 as well.

Essentially Ellington Seattle finalists

Duke Ellington. Photo courtesy Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Making the Duke’s music accessible

The competition’s namesake, Duke Ellington, stands at the heart of America’s jazz canon. Jazz at Lincoln Center created the Essentially Ellington program to make Ellington’s music accessible to as many high school musicians as possible and to support the development of school music programs.

Each year, as part of the annual competition and accompanying learning institute and festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center transcribes, publishes and distributes Duke Ellington Orchestra charts to high school bands in the U.S., Canada, and American schools abroad alone with recordings and additional educational materials. The charts are original transcriptions of recordings by the Duke Ellington Orchestra, rather than simplified arrangements often more accessible to schools.

Concert features local finalists

Catch local Essentially Ellington finalists at the Starbucks 26th annual Hot Java Cool Jazz concert at Paramount Theatre on March 31. The concert starts at 7 p.m. General admission starts at $34. Students tickets purchased 45 minutes prior to showtime will be discounted by 50%. For child and youth ticket discount information, call the Paramount at (434) 979-1333.

About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at