DGN musicians are Essentially Ellington

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: Adam Pearson (12) and John Fioti(12) prepping for Ellington.
CELEBRATING SUCCESS: Adam Pearson (12) and John Fioti(12) prepping for Ellington.
Jessen T. Smith

“Essentially Ellington” is an annual event held at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts in Manhattan, New York. The event started in 1995 and it hosts only 15 jazz bands from across the country. This year, two DGN trombone players will attend the event with the Youth Jazz Ensemble of DuPage (YJED) under the direction of Robert Blazek.

John Fioti and Adam Pearson are seniors in the Wind Ensemble and Jazz Ensemble at DGN, and they are the only DGN students involved in the Youth Jazz Ensemble of DuPage outside of DGN. The Youth Jazz Ensemble of DuPage has 27 members from 14 high schools in DuPage County who meet at James Howard Monroe Middle School each week for rehearsals.

YJED was founded in 1999 by Robert Blazek in hopes to offer the opportunity of a community jazz ensemble for high schoolers in DuPage County. Blazek was a middle school band director for 30 years, and after he retired in 2015, he wanted to be able to direct a high school level ensemble. This year will be the third year that the ensemble has been invited to perform at Essentially Ellington.

“I want us to continue to serve the DuPage area as we do, and grow our group to possibly having a Junior high band, at one point. This is our 25th year of being around, and so I want to keep looking towards the future and keep building to it, especially when you have a successful year such as this,” Blazek said.

YJED will go to a couple jazz club, the 9/11 monument, and other sites in New York. Students, while at the festival, will attend workshops from members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra(JLC), such as the world-renowned trumpet player Wynton Marsalis, the two-time Grammy award winner Ted Nash, and the Jazz Trombone teacher at Julliard School of Music Elliot Mason.

Athena Chark

“I’m very excited to go meet the pros and work with them, and also to compete with a lot of other bands. I’m looking forward to hearing and seeing a bunch of other musicians who are infinitely better than me and who I can learn a lot from, and to make a bunch of connections,” Fioti said.

Fioti and seven other players in the ensemble have made it to state levels for their playing in either jazz ensembles, orchestras, or concert bands. This further pushed the ensemble to success as many of players have continued to grow throughout the years to be qualified musicians.

“I thought that the level of the group had really matured, and this group of kids has been together for many years now. They have grown together, and so it has this special-ness to it where they were able to relate to each other, build relationships, and play off of each other. I thought there would be as good of chance as any that this would be the year” Blazek said

YJED has pushed all of its members to perform at a higher level and that has also heightened the level of each members playing. Fioti and Pearson have both reflected about their personal growth in YJED and how they have applied their talent to their time at DGN.

“While it was uncomfortable at first, I learned to love the challenge that was presented to me. After auditioning and being accepted into YJED my Junior year, the accomplishment continued fueling my interest for jazz. Looking back at the last three years, I have felt so much self growth and plan to continue applying my experience to our ensembles here at DGN.” Pearson said.

To keep following YJED on their journey to Essentially Ellington, you can see them perform on WGN April 12th, from 11am-12pm. You can also support them by donating to their GoFundMe that is linked on their website.

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