A record-setting five Seattle-area schools were named finalists for the 2008 Essentially Ellington high-school jazz band competition: South Whidbey, Mountlake Terrace High School, Shorewood, Garfield and Roosevelt.

One-third of the 15 high-school jazz bands selected as finalists for this year’s Essentially Ellington competition in New York are from the Seattle area.

The five schools are South Whidbey High School, from Langley; Mountlake Terrace High School; Shorewood High School, from Shoreline; and Seattle’s Garfield High School and Roosevelt High School.

Also, Mountlake Terrace High School’s Kelsey Van Dalfsen won first place in the Essentially Ellington student-essay context.

Since the competition was opened to schools west of the Mississippi 10 years ago, greater Seattle bands have dominated Essentially Ellington. But this is the first time five local schools have made the finals. Bands from Washington state now account for 36 of 155 finalist slots since 1999.

Seattle rivals Garfield and Roosevelt have each won the competition twice, Garfield in 2003 and 2004; Roosevelt in 2002 and 2007.

The finals take place May 15-17 in New York, at Frederick P. Rose Hall and Avery Fisher Hall.

Essentially Ellington is a program of Jazz at Lincoln Center, the nonprofit jazz organization directed by trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis. Essentially Ellington entrants receive free scores to works by Duke Ellington, then submit tapes to a panel of judges. Finalists receive free clinics at home and in New York.

This year, 82 bands entered the competition.

More information: www.essentiallyellington.org.

Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or pdebarros@seattletimes.com