A letter from Dr. Gregg Gelb, Conductor of Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble:

Dear Students, Parents, Co-workers, and Jazz Fans and Supporters:

The Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble just returned from the 2019 Jazz at Lincoln Center Essentially Ellington Festival and Competition in NYC and I have to tell you what an amazing experience it was, but mostly I want thank all of you for making it possible.

For the last four days TYJE and I lived and breathed jazz at its finest. We heard fifteen great high school student bands, the Julliard Jazz Ensemble, and Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. All the workshops and concerts took place in the beautiful JALC building which is located in Columbus Circle. Our hotel, central park, and restaurants all were within walking distance.

TYJE performed marvelously. But there is so much more to being at EE than just the performance. They engaged with the students of the other bands and I watched how they were constantly showing their enthusiasm and appreciation of their peers. They were totally attentive to Wynton and the JCLO. They watched in complete concentration when we went to Dizzy’s night club to watch Julliard.

The competition was incredible. As the only community band and the only one limited to one regular rehearsal a week, not to mention starting in mid–week September, we are certainly at a  disadvantage, although I’m sure all the other schools have their own difficulties to deal with too.

We played so well that I think we were only a few points away from reaching the top three. 

We received these special awards: Outstanding Brass section, Outstanding Trumpet section, Outstanding Bassist, Will Hazlehurst, and Outstanding Tenor Saxophonist, Roland Burnot, plus honorable mention for Andrew Long (alto sax) and Emerson Borg (trumpet). We definitely had a lot of success.

But it’s the other things we all learned and experienced that are still burning in our blood.  The effect of Wynton Marsalis on all of us is amazing. He is so generous of his time, teaching, and sharing of his ideas and experience. He and his co-workers are developing so many fine young musicians, but not only just to become fine musicians but good all-around people. When he speaks he does convey how to make us better musicians but he always includes what it means and takes to be a better person. He is a terrific example for all of us: he leads a great band, writes fine music, is a top advocate for jazz, and he knows how to sustain and propel a cultural organization. I love how JALC is encouraging young people to write original music. The winners of the young composer’s awards are incredible. Their music was played by JLCO and it was some of the best we heard. 

Now is such a happy a time but also sad because almost half the band is graduating and they are moving on to more experiences in music and that’s great. I wish them the best but I will miss them. We really worked well together over all these years. To those who are coming back, I can’t wait to start again, but please help by getting the word out as far as possible so all the young best players in our area consider participating. You and I know we have to get back to JALC next year!

I want to acknowledge how important a job that Lisa Burn does for our jazz program. She trains many of our brass players, she runs the TYJO very well and she did an incredible job of overseeing our trip to NYC. THANKS LISA! I look forward to having all of the students from her band and from the band of our other fine teacher, Kobie Watkins.

What we are all doing is making a better community. Jazz is able to forge a better community because it is dependent upon communication. Maybe we shouldn’t call Essentially Ellington a competition/festival, it is more like an appreciation.  We go and listen to others play and teach, we get inspired by them. We work on ourselves, we get better. We associate with all types of people. It is a democratic process in which each individual is free to express themselves but done in a mutually respectful environment. 

Thank you all for all of your help in building such a fine jazz community.


Sincerely, Gregg