Arts & Life
Clockwise from top, left: Colby Lamson-Gordon (junior, Lakeside), Susana Davidson (soph., Garfield), Bell Thompson (soph., Garfield), Lauren Martinez (Garfield), Kelly Barr-Clingan (director), Maia Nelson (sophomore, Garfield)
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Clockwise from top, left: Colby Lamson-Gordon (junior, Lakeside), Susana Davidson (soph., Garfield), Bell Thompson (soph., Garfield), Lauren Martinez (Garfield), Kelly Barr-Clingan (director), Maia Nelson (sophomore, Garfield)
Credit: KUOW Photo/Daniel Berman

Seattle all-girls jazz band goes national

The Girls Ellington Project is heading to the Swing Central Jazz Festival in Savannah, Georgia next week.

It’s the first time ever that an all-girls high school jazz band has been selected to participate in a national competition.

Only 12 bands were chosen to compete this year, all selected in a blind audition. That means the judges didn’t know whose audition tapes they were listening to.

“It’s a really big deal,” says band director Kelly Clingan, who founded the Girls Ellington Project seven years ago. “The judges didn’t know we were an all-girls band. We did it!”

Read more: Seattle Girls' Jazz Band Shatters Stereotypes

The Girls Ellington Project is now part of the after-school program Seattle Jazz Ed. When Clingan founded it, she wanted to address the gender disparity in the many local high school jazz programs. Specifically, she wanted to guide the girls toward selection for a national competition.

Seattle-area high school jazz programs have been well represented at the prestigious Essentially Ellington festival in New York. Garfield and Roosevelt high schools from Seattle, as well as Edmonds-Woodway, Mount Si and Mountlake Terrace, have all taken honors there.

Girls participate in those programs, but Clingan, who was part of the Roosevelt High School program, wanted to create an arena where the girls would be front and center.

The 19 members of the Girls Ellington Project travel to Georgia on April 2. Their appearance itself is groundbreaking, but a win in this national competition would be historic.