Lakota East Jazz Band Tapped for Prestigious Jazz Festival in NYC 

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Performing Braggin' in Brass


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


It's the kind of event that inspires superlatives.

Todd Hartman, Lakota's director of jazz studies, calls it the Super Bowl of high school jazz festivals. Acclaimed musician Wynton Marsalis says it's his favorite time of year. It's a rare opportunity for Lakota East High School students to meet jazz legends and play in New York City.

The Eastside Jazz Ensemble has been selected to take part in the prestigious Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival at Lincoln Center. The 21-musician group was chosen from among 111 bands that entered the competition.

Lakota East is the only Ohio high school selected to participate and one of only two high schools in the Midwest.

During the May 4-6 event, 15 bands will compete and participate in workshops, jam sessions and more. The three top-placing bands will perform with Marsalis, artistic director of jazz at Lincoln Center. The students will also hear a performance by the 15-piece Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, whose members will serve as mentors for the finalist bands throughout the weekend.

The festival's finale will be an awards ceremony honoring outstanding band soloists and sections as well as the top three bands.

Hartman says the experience will be life-changing for the students. “They will hear the other 14 high school jazz bands, which come from all parts of the country. They will experience a question-and-answer session with Wynton Marsalis and, of course, they will perform at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts.” 

Michael Dudley, a Lakota East senior who plays trumpet, says the students' excitement about the trip is palpable. “ Every day in class we talk about the trip and how excited we are and how hard we are preparing.”

To help prepare students for the event, the festival will send a professional jazz musician to each competing high school to conduct a day-long clinic with students.

Each year, the festival chooses six pieces to highlight. This year, three were composed by band leader and pianist Duke Ellington and three by trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. To qualify, each band must submit a recording of three of the pieces.

Hartman believes his students' dedication made his ensemble's submission stand out. “They practiced for hours upon hours during and outside of the school day to make their audition CD,” he says. “They play with soulfulness and expressiveness.”

Dudley hopes the festival will help him g ain a broader perspective about music and how to communicate through the art.

Students and their parents will cover the costs of the trip. The group is planning fund-raising efforts as well.   

Lakota East High School Bands will hold their sixth annual Cool Jazz N' Hotcakes fund-raising event on Saturday, May 12, 8 am to noon. 

Audience members can enjoy pancakes, sausage, and drinks while listening to all five Lakota East jazz bands as well as the 7th grade jazz bands from Hopewell and Liberty Junior schools.  Tickets are available for $6 from any LEHS band student or at the door.

By:Elliot Grossman; 513-240-9801;


Some pictures from the 2009-2010 group are provided below.

East Jazz Combo


EJE Monterey 2010EJE Monterey 2010EJE 2009-06-08East West All State 2010

Congratulations to the Eastside Jazz Ensemble on receiving an invitation to the Monterey Jazz Festival!

Eastside was one of only twelve high school big bands selected to perform at the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival in Monterey, California in April of this year. Auditions were by CD recording only and were judged by the Berkeley College of Music Faculty.

Congratulations to the Eastside Jazz Ensemble! The Eastside Jazz Ensemble competed in a field of 17 high school jazz bands from five different states on Saturday, February 28 at the University of Louisville Jazz Festival. The ensemble was awarded 1st place at the competition and the top prize of performing at the start of the professional concert!

In addition to this group honor, drummer Evan Gallant and vocalist/trumpeter Zenyth Manchion were selected as two of only four students to receive scholarships to the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Camp.