The Osceola School for the Arts Jazz band traveled to compete at New York’s Lincoln Center for Essentially Ellington May 5-7, the nation’s premier jazz education event and competition. When they return to Osceola County on Monday, they’ll do so as winners after coming in first over 15 other high school jazz bands in the competition.

“What an amazing experience we had over the past few days in New York. Congratulations to all of the students, families and supporters of the OCSA jazz program. It was an exhausting week, but all of the hard work that Mr. Jason Anderson and the absolutely amazing students in Jazz A was rewarded last night with earning 1st place in the Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival,” Assistant Principal at the Osceola County School for the Arts Mark Conners said – who traveled with the ensemble to NYC.

Duke Ellington’s music is at the very heart of America’s 20th-century musical heritage and the core of the rich canon of jazz music. Jazz at Lincoln Center, committed to instilling a broader understanding of this music, created the Essentially Ellington program (EE) during the 1995–96 school year to make Ellington’s music accessible to as many high school musicians as possible and to support the development of their schools’ music programs.

Nataniel Williford

Trumpet player Nathaniel Williford was also award the ‘Snooky Young” award for his excellence as a lead and solo trumpeter at the competition in New York, presented to him by trumpet jazz legend, Wynton Marsalis.

“Honestly it all feels surreal. To show up with these people that I’ve spent all this time and rehearsals with and truly learned to love, it has been amazing. We all put in so much work and we left it all on the stage. And I am so honored to receive this brand new award in the name of one of my heroes. That recognition from Wynton meant the world to me. Couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this group,” OCSA trumpet player Nathaniel Williford said on Sunday.

Disney World provided a $20,000 donation for the OCSA jazz band’s trip to New York City. Some school district funds, plus a travel scholarship granted by Jazz at Lincoln Center, covered most of the expenses to attend the festival, making it possible for jazz band leader Jason Anderson and his band to really stay focused on the main purpose of the trip… to play some serious jazz!

Positively Osceola would like to congratulate the OCSA Jazz band, the Osceola County School of the Arts, and the school district of Osceola County for bringing an example of the excellence that exists in an around Osceola County to the national, and international level.

Source: Osceola School for the Arts, OCSA AP Mark Conners, Nathaniel Williford