This year, our Triangle Youth Jazz Orchestra is going above and beyond to prepare for the Essentially Ellington Regional Festival in Chapel Hill on February 22.  This festival gives high school jazz bands the chance to perform the music of well known big band composers like Duke Ellington, and to receive feedback from professionals on their performance.  To prepare for the festival, TYJO has welcomed several opportunities to work with expert jazz musicians. 

On January 26th, the TYJO received help from Thomas Heflin, a teacher of jazz trumpet at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.   In addition to having earned a doctorate in Music Performance (jazz emphasis), and having produced several albums of jazz music, Thomas Heflin is an experienced instructor of jazz.  He has taught at a large number of colleges and camps.  His advice was highly valued by the musicians of TYJO.  

On February 2, the band will work with Kobie Watkins, Gregg Gelb, and Wes Parker. 

Mr. Watkins, who conducts our Triangle Youth Jazz Band, is both an experienced performer, and an experienced educator.  He has a well established international career as a jazz drummer, and has performed with many renowned jazz musicians including  Branford Marsalis, Kurt Elling, and Sonny Rollins among others.  Mr. Watkins has worked for several performing arts schools and programs, and regularly gives clinics and masterclasses to local schools. 

Dr. Wes Parker, a trombonist, has been the Director of Jazz Studies at NC State University since 2006.  Like Mr. Watkins, Parker has performed with several famous jazz artists and ensembles (Branford Marsalis, Ellis Marsalis, the Temptations, and the Pointer Sisters to name a few).  Parker is also an active clinician, and an experienced educator of youth musicians. 

Dr. Gregg Gelb, conductor of our award winning Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble, is a saxophonist and clarinetist, and leads many different jazz groups. His groups have recorded over a dozen CD’s, and he was awarded the Raleigh Medal of Arts in 2019.  His passion for educating youth musicians is evidenced by the success of the Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble at the regional Essentially Ellington Festival each year and their inclusion in the national festival for the last four years.

Finally, on February 9th, TYJO will work with well known saxophone player, jazz teacher, and former Director of Jazz Studies at Northern Illinois University,  Ron Carter.  The list of universities Carter has taught at is extensive, and the list of ensembles he has conducted endless.  Carter has performed, conducted and presented clinics at regional, national, and international conferences, and directed all-state jazz bands in twenty-three states.  Carter is also a former International Consultant for the Essentially Ellington Jazz Competition.  His honors and awards include (but are not limited to) Downbeat Magazine’s Jazz Educators Hall of Fame, The 1991 Milken National Distinguished Educator Award, Southern Illinois University Excellence in Teaching Award, and the St. Louis American Newspaper’s Excellence in Teaching Award. 

TYJO is honored to have the opportunity to work with so many distinguished jazz musicians and educators.  Going above and beyond to prepare for Essentially Ellington by seeking the help of these experts will ensure that the ensemble gets the most value out of the festival.