In a special performance on March 23, Carnegie Hall shines the spotlight on Duke Ellington’s sacred music, some of the most ambitious and heartfelt music of his legendary career. Tying together elements of jazz and classical music with African American spirituals and gospel, these compositions crossed the lines that divide secular and religious genres, while punctuating the ever expanding role of jazz in America and throughout the world.
First heard during three historic concerts in the 1960s and ’70s, this legendary music will now be performed by hundreds of student singers and instrumentalists from New York City alongside some of today’s brightest jazz soloists, brought together by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute in collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center.
As part of their participation in this project, the student musicians have also worked throughout the school year to explore jazz composition and improvisation, guided by some of the world-class performers with whom they will share the Carnegie Hall stage. Two of these artist-educators are Vincent Gardner, director of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Orchestra and trombone soloist for the concert, and Damien Sneed, a renowned choral conductor and director of the 250-strong choir of high school singers for the final performance. In the following, the two share their thoughts on Duke Ellington’s music and the impact of this project on their students’ lives.