SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Rio Americano High School jazz band is heading to New York City! 

They are one of only 15 bands in the U.S. to be selected as finalists for the Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival, where they will be mentored by the best professional musicians.

The music of Duke Ellington is arguably some of the most complex ever written, and takes talented musicians to tackle it. After submitting recordings of three pieces of music from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Library, Rio Americano was chosen out of 112 applicants.

“Essentially Ellington shows off America’s young people at their best. High school students from across this nation have worked tirelessly on the highest quality of our orchestral music," Wynton Marsalis, Managing and Artistic Director, Jazz at Lincoln Center, said. "They’ve met the challenge of mastering vocal effects on horns, of improvising fresh, new individual ideas, and of swinging, which means embracing and nurturing the common ground.”

Josh Murray, Director of the Rio Americano Jazz Band, says he believes this band is about more than just music. 

“It’s not necessarily how well they play, but it’s how well they represent themselves," Murray said. "Do they get along with other people, and are they kind? Those are the expectations I have, and when I set those expectations and the kids meet them, then the music takes care of itself.”

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