COLUMBUS CIRCLE — Who wouldn't want to be in that number?
More than 400 high school jazz musicians, band directors and parents — led by Jazz at Lincoln Center instrumentalists and the organization's artistic director, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis — marched in a parade from Columbus Circle Park to the nearby JALC performing arts complex while playing tunes like "Joe Avery's Blues" and "When the Saints Go Marching In" Friday morning.
Second Line parades are a tradition in Marsalis' hometown of New Orleans, famous for being part of funeral observances.
Organizers arranged the "United We Swing" parade as a way to kick off the 22nd annual "Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival," a jazz education program at JALC bringing 15 high school jazz bands to the Big Apple for workshops and performances, and to demonstrate the importance of preserving funding for and access to arts education, they said in a press release.
“Decisions are made by the community," said Marsalis in a statement provided to DNAinfo New York. "If a community can understand the value of knowing who we are and coming to a collective understanding and general wisdom, then great arts will happen."
The musician traded his horn for a bass drum during Friday's march. His mere presence left some students star-struck.
"I was personally right next to him, and it was just so cool being next to a legend," said vocalist Rosse Martinez, who attends Osceola School for the Arts in Kissimmee, Florida.
Not all schools in her area have jazz programs, she said, "so it's really important to remind everyone with all these arts budget cuts that we do need to keep arts in the schools, especially jazz — it's a part of history."