Tang's entry was remarkable for its maturity, Nash said. "You have the melody, you have solos, you have backgrounds, you have a development, sometimes we call it a 'shout chorus,'" he said. "She has all of these important elements in the piece, but it's deeply personal as well."
Nash is thrilled that students have come from all over the country to participate in the Essentially Ellington Festival. "We've gone through a period where people weren't that interested in big bands," he said.
Nash credited Wynton Marsalis, managing and artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, with reversing that trend by "understanding the importance of having an orchestral vision and orchestral voice in jazz."
Tang said she's inspired by all kinds of music from different time periods, videos of which she devours on the internet. Her training began with classical piano when she was a little girl; she started playing in her school jazz bands in sixth grade. She said she "absolutely loves" trumpet player Roy Hargrove and admires contemporary artists like pianist Aaron Parks and drummers and composers Terri Lynne Carrington and Kendrick Scott Oracle.