Essentially Ellington Down Under Regional Festival will be making its debut in Australia and be swinging by Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney

Brisbane’s Jazz Music Institute (JMI) and New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) will be bringing a new and exciting festival to Australia in August this year, offering high school jazz bands and music directors/musicians of all sorts some excellent performance and professional development opportunities.

JK: What has inspired you to run these workshops?
DQ: We felt that there was a disparity in the depth and seriousness to repertoire being performed in high school big bands compared to orchestras and concert bands in Australia.  High school concert bands perform classical repertoire that is at times quite complex and involved repertoire, however for some reason big bands in high schools seem to perform more “show tune” and funk repertoire rather than learning how to swing and perform the classic big band repertoire such as the music of Duke Ellington and Count Basie Orchestra.  The Essentially Ellington program is an amazing resource that aims to elevate the musicianship of high school big bands by providing free resources such as scores, tutorials and guides on approaching performing this repertoire.  To see high school students approach this music with as much fervour as they in their other school ensembles was the main inspiration for running Essentially Ellington Down Under

JK: How did the relationship with Jazz at the Lincoln Center happen?
DQ: I was in New York for a week or two and arranged a meeting with Wynton Marsalis to show him the curriculum for JMI’s Bachelor program for which I’m the Head of School.  I was looking for feedback on our course structure and curriculum.  I went through the course with Wynton and Todd Stoll, the Vice President of Education at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and they were blown away by our approach towards learning jazz and understanding the language and tradition of the music.  From there we’ve had a great relationship and mutual respect for each other’s organisations.

JK: How important is it for aspiring jazz musicians to have an opportunity to play in a big band format?
DQ: Playing in a high school big band is usually the first introduction to jazz music for young musicians.  So I feel it’s a really important experience for young aspiring jazz musicians to do.  The big band format is a really enjoyable ensemble experience where you learn to play as part of a section, listen intently to the rest of the ensemble and learn the nuances of jazz phrasing and swing rhythms.

JK: Will there be an opportunity to hear the musicians from the JALC program play while they are here?
DQ: We hope to be able to line up a couple of gigs throughout Australia with the JALC guys but we’ll have to see what happens

Essentially Ellington is a noncompetitive festival designed to offer high school jazz bands of all levels the opportunity to perform the music of Duke Ellington and other big band composers, and to receive professional feedback from Jazz at Lincoln Center clinicians and other jazz professionals in their own communities.

Free resources are provided including transcriptions of the original big band charts composers and band leaders including Duke Ellington, Benny Carter, Mary Lou Williams, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie.

In EE‘s 19-year history, Jazz at Lincoln Center has distributed more than 120,000 charts to more than 4,200 schools, reaching over 504,000 students throughout the US and other countries.

“EE is an opportunity for aspiring young musicians and music teachers to share the great talent we’ve got going on here in Australia whilst interacting with some of the biggest names and the most inspiring musicians and educators around today.  I think we can all learn a lot from each other and JMI are really proud to be able to help bring such vibrant and inspiring musicians and educators to work with our young aspiring musicians here in Australia” says Nick Quigley, Brisbane bass player and Chief Executive Officer at JMI.

To register for Essentially Ellington and to access the free resources (scores and charts) become a member by signing up to the Essentially Ellington 2015-16 program (it’s free!) at

Band directors can enter their ensembles into the Essentially Ellington Down Under Regional Festival and for $500 will receive adjudication from a Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra clinician from the US and a local adjudicator and will then receive a private workshop with their JLCO adjudicator/clinician after the performance.

The Essentially Ellington teacher’s conference (which is open to teachers and musicians, students and interested parties) will continue to run in conjunction with the festival and anyone interested can sign up via the Jazz Music Institute (JMI) website

The Essentially Ellington Down Under Regional Festival will take place at the following venues:
Brisbane – 4th August –  South Bank Institute of Tafe C Block
Perth – 7th August – Carey College
Melbourne – 10th August – Darebin Arts and Entertainment Complex
Sydney – 12th August – SIMA Sound Lounge

Email or visit the JMI website for more information about the Essentially Ellington Down Under Regional Festival school performance/workshop and the Essentially Ellington Teachers Conference.