The Osceola County School for the Arts Jazz Band A was honored at Tuesday’s  Osceola School Board meeting in Kissimmee. Members of the jazz band along with their director Jason Anderson, were celebrated for representing Osceola by taking home first place on their recent trip to New York’s Lincoln Center where they competed and in the the Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival which took place May 5-7. Essentially Ellington is the nation’s premier jazz education event and competition and as said by school board member Julius Melendez, “OCSA’s Jazz Band A is basically the best high school jazz band in the nation,” after coming in first over 15 other high school jazz bands in the competition.

“It was a year they weren’t expected to make it, post COVID, and with a new director. Through hard work and determination, they pulled off the unexpected and won. The bond they have built and the fun atmosphere is directly attributed to Mr Jason Anderson, Resource Specialist for Fine and Performing Arts for the school district Chris Burns shared on Tuesday.



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.

“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.

Trumpet player Nathaniel Williford received the ‘Snooky Young” award at the competition 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!