Dillard High School Jazz Ensemble aims to win Essentially Ellington competition

Fort Lauderdale students to compete with schools nationwide


MIAMI-DADE, Fla. – The Dillard High School Jazz Ensemble can bring the noise. That is jazz talk for "They are really good."

"I am very proud of this group," said Christopher Dorsey, the band director. "They have worked really hard."

They are one of 15 high schools in the country that are heading to New York City for The Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival, an annual event that takes place every May. 

It won't be the first time for the Fort Lauderdale school, but the seventh. Guitarist Jake Pardo is making his third trip to New York City for the competition.

"The feeling you get when you walk out on the stage and everyone is clapping, it helps you," Pardo said.

Trombonist Christopher Crenshaw from Jazz at Lincoln Center came to help them get ready with a four hour boot camp.

"If you can get to the point when you can see the music happening before it happens, then you can get to that point where you are a championship band," Crenshaw said. "All those things like nuances, attention to detail that the average musician would think about that will propel a musician over the top."

Dillard's Jazz ensemble has won Ellington twice. They have never placed lower than fourth place in all of their appearances in the competition. First timer Charles Blagrove says he plans to keep up the streak.

"I want to win and this is my first time and I am going to bring all of the fire," Blagrove said. "When you get an opportunity like this, you put your best foot forward."