MDC New World School of the Arts Jazz Ensemble Wins First Place in 21st Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival

Miami, May 9, 2016 – The New World School of the Arts (NWSA) High School Jazz Ensemble at Miami Dade College (MDC), won first place during the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival  held May 5-7, in New York City.

“We are so proud of our students and our jazz ensemble director, Jim Gasior, for their victory in New York,” said Dr. Daniel Andai, dean of music at NWSA. “They dedicated themselves to a higher goal by coming together as a team, ensuring that their individual skills in music theory and technical proficiency on their instruments met the rigorous demands, and that they were mentally and physically prepared to accomplish their task of performing with passion and intelligence.”

The Essentially Ellington program, through Jazz at Lincoln Center (JLCO), is a free program for high school jazz bands that provides members with charts, videos, and other resource materials throughout the school year. Through the music of pivotal big band composers such as Duke Ellington, Benny Carter, Mary Lou Williams, Count Basie, and Dizzy Gillespie, high school bands can explore elements of style and self-expression.

More than 100 high school bands nationwide entered the annual competition by submitting a recorded performance of three compositions. JLCO then selected finalists through a rigorous screening process from five different regions across the United States.

The 25-member NWSA High School Jazz Ensemble received a total of eleven recognitions in numerous categories during the Essentially Ellington Competition awards ceremony, while a Special Award was presented to Gasior for Most Original and Consistently Original Directing Style.  Gasior is known for his creative dancing movements when he directs the band.

“We don’t know how he invented it, but it is truly in the spirit of jazz,” said world-renowned musician Wynton Marsalis while presenting the honor to Gasior.  “He came up with that one.”

NWSA has previously been honored as a finalist at Essentially Ellington. The Jazz Band placed first in 2005, and has received countless honorable mentions. Numerous New World School of the Arts jazz students have been recognized for their musicianship on a national scale. NWSA students have also received Downbeat Student Music Awards, Young Arts talent search awards, and have been selected to perform with the NWSA High School Grammy Band in Los Angeles, California.  In addition, the jazz musicians had the honor of representing South Florida as they participated in Jazz Studio, a music series initiative held at The White House, also in 2010.

Along with the other two top-winning bands, the NWSA Jazz Ensemble was chosen by a panel of judges comprised of distinguished jazz musicians and historians including Marsalis, Managing Artistic Director for Jazz at Lincoln Center; respected trombonist Chris Crenshaw; renowned saxophonist and jazz educator Lauren Sevian; Grammy-nominated recording artist Jeff Hamilton; and Bass player, composer and arranger Chuck Israels. Three top winners were selected from a total of fifteen jazz bands finalists.  As the first place winner, NWSA received a $5,000 cash award and a trophy.

New World School of the Arts was created by the Florida Legislature as a center of excellence in the performing and visual arts, is an educational partnership of Miami Dade County Public Schools, Miami Dade College and the University of Florida.

Information about New World School of the Arts is available at 305-237-3135 or at