South Miami Middle School graduates Thomas Dover and Rane Roatta won “Outstanding Soloists” awards for the third year in a row at the prestigious Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition held recently in New York City.
The seniors from New World School of the Arts competed with their jazz band and took home an honorable mention, or fourth place overall, out of over 1,500 schools vying for the top honors.
Director of New World School Jazz Ensemble Dr. Peter Francis commented on the success of South Miami Middle School alumni that matriculate to New World. “Historically, we’ve had some incredible students come out of here for years,” he said. “We have a great relationship with them and both the students and the institution have benefited from that relationship.”
Mari Chael, Thomas Dover’s mom said the whole family made the trek to New York City as they do every year. “It was a treat to see our kids perform on stage,” she said. “We are so proud of all of our kids, especially Thomas. He couldn’t have done it without the leadership and great teachers at New World School.”
Student Rane Roatta said that the best part of being with Wynton Marsalis and the band was the opportunity to learn from master musicians. “I enjoyed working with the band and getting a chance to pick their brains,” he said. “They really know what they’re doing.”
Jazz at Lincoln Center selects original compositions and arrangements of Duke Ellington and other big band composers and arrangers for the high school bands to play during its Essentially Ellington competition. Roatta encourages other budding young musicians to get out there and play. “Music is a social art form. Immerse yourself in the culture and see who is playing around your local music scene,” he said.
This year’s Essentially Ellington competition included 110 bands from more than 1,500 high schools in the United States, Canada and American schools in Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
After three days of competition at Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of jazz at Lincoln Center, Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis presented prizes and cash awards to each of the 15 finalist bands at a culminating concert and ceremony.
Of all the bands competing in 2011, Jeff Hamilton, judge, said, “It surprises me that the bands’ maturity is far beyond their years. All of them express what joy they bring to this music.”
Dillard Center for the Arts of Fort Lauderdale won the first place trophy and an award of $5000; second place, $2500, was won by Roosevelt High School of Seattle, Washington; third, $1000, went to Mountlake Terrace High School, also of Seattle. Each honorable mention winner took home a $750 award.