Dillard Center for the Arts Jazz Ensemble Invited to Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival for 10th Time

Congratulations are in order for the Dillard Center for the Arts (DCA) Jazz Ensemble, which is one of 18 high school big bands invited to compete for top honors at the 25th annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival, scheduled to take place this week in New York City prior to the pandemic.

Under the direction of Christopher Dorsey, instrumental music director, this is DCA Jazz Ensemble’s 10th invitation to participate in the nation’s premier jazz competition and education event since 2010, winning first place in 2011, 2012 and 2018. The band was selected from a competitive pool of 106 bands that submitted recordings of three tunes from Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Library.

In response to growing concerns about the spread of COVID-19, Jazz at Lincoln Center postponed the 25th annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival, scheduled to take place at Frederick P. Rose Hall, The House of Swing in New York City, May 7 – 9, 2020. Jazz at Lincoln Center will announce a new date and plans to celebrate the nation’s top 18 high school big bands.

Since 2004, Dorsey has developed the jazz program at DCA into one of the premier high school jazz programs in the country. Over the years, the program has grown from one to two jazz bands and has reached a level of skill, style and swing that has earned the program national recognition.

Under Dorsey’s direction, the DCA Jazz Ensemble has achieved numerous outstanding accomplishments, including:

  • Performed with Terrell Stafford, Vincent Gardner and Stefon Harris at the 73rdAnnual Midwest Clinic, an International Band and Orchestra Conference, Chicago, IL, December 19, 2019
  • Finalist of the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2020) with performances at Lincoln Center in New York City with world-renowned jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, and in 2011, 2012 and 2018 as first-place winners 

  • 2010, 2011 and 2012 winners of the Swing Central Jazz Competition and Workshop in Savannah, GA 

  • Superior ratings with the Florida Bandmasters Association 16 consecutive years at the district level and 10 consecutive years at the state level

  • Several members of the jazz band selected for participation in Grammy Band, Jazz Band of America, Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, All-State Jazz Band and All-County Jazz Band 

  • DCA Jazz Ensemble graduates have been awarded scholarships to Manhattan School of Music, Julliard, New School of Jazz, University of Miami, Michigan State University and Florida State University. 


The DCA Jazz Ensemble has also worked and performed with numerous renowned and respected musical artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Nestor Torres, Jon Faddis, Sean Jones, Nat Adderley Jr., Wycliff Gordon, Victor Goines, Marcus Printup, Lou Donaldson, Rodney Whitaker, Willerm Delisfort, Ron Carter, Jeff Clayton, Chris Crenshaw, Walter Blanding, John Clayton, Gerald Clayton, Ted Nash, Brubeck Brothers, Chico Hamilton and Ed Calle.

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