Sue Kiesewetter reports
The Eastside Jazz Ensemble is headed to New York City to participate in the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival at the Lincoln Center.
Lakota East’s 21-member ensemble was one of only 15 high school finalists – and the only Ohio group – selected for the May 4-6 festival in New York City. Selection was based on a three-song CD the students recorded last December.
“I’m extremely excited. It’s an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in the Lincoln Center and get world class instruction with jazz greats,” said senior Aaron Todahl.
“We’ll be exposed to the world’s best jazz,” added Brendan Todahl, Aaron’s twin brother, who is also making the trip.
For the last three months Brendan and Aaron have played and listened to Duke Ellington’s music almost exclusively at their West Chester Township home.
“I’m excited, but not intimidated. Getting to play in front of the jazz greats is really awesome and I’m looking forward to it,” Brendan Todahl.
This was the first time jazz director Todd Hartman applied to be part of the festival, which includes workshops, jam sessions, rehearsals and performances at the House of Swing at the Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall.
The students began listening to Duke Ellington’s music in October, got the music they would record in mid-November and then recorded the competition CD in December.
“We pretty much had it in our heads before we got the music,” said senior Kyle Vanden Eynden.
“This is like the Super Bowl of high school jazz festivals,’’ Hartman said. “It’s one of the most selective jazz festivals in the country. It’s a huge honor for our kids and we’re really proud.’’
This is Vanden Eynden’s first trip to New York. In preparation, the Liberty Township teen said there have been extra practice sessions for each section of musicians, by instrument.
To help the students prepare for the festival, Todd Stoll, director of jazz education at the Lincoln Center, will spend all day, April 19, with the ensemble, helping them perfect the three songs they will be performing: Rockin’ In Rhythm, A Night in Tunisia, and Tutti for Cootie.
The top three placing bands will perform with jazz great Wynton Marsalis, who serves as the Lincoln Center’s artistic director of jazz. Mentors for the top group will be members of the 15-piece Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
“Every day in class we talk about the trip and how excited we are and how hard we are preparing,’’ said senior trumpeter Michael Dudley.
Aaron Todahl can’t wait to perform Tutti for Cootie with Dudley.
“It’s a good, upbeat, shuffle kind of song and me and Michael have a trumpet battle. It’s a good time.”
“We want to relax and have fun and at the same time make some great jazz music,’’ Vanden Eynden added.
Those making the trip, by instrument group are:
*Saxophones: Chris Griffin and Laura Moak, alto; Nick Hollon and Lindsey Werner, tenor; and Zach Williams, baritone.
*Trumpets: Michael Dudley, Alex Fuhr, Aaron Todahl, Kevin Cleaves, Chris Nichols
*Trombones: Jacob Stegeman, Christian Dawson, Kyle Vanden Eynden, Josh Omaits, bass
*Rhythm: Nick Pierok and Zack Shork, guitar; Erin McNally, piano; Jeremy Bright, bass; Nick Hach and Brendan Todahl, percussion
*Vocalist: Anastazia Brown