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Duke Ellington: Georgetown's dream school

You know the big green lawn chair. You know the legend for whom it’s named. You may even know it’s a D.C. public school in Georgetown. But did you know that over 95 percent of its graduates are accepted into the nation’s most competitive universities and conservatories? Or that they have a professional recording studio (one you can rent) and theater with seating for 800? For D.C.'s aspiring artists in disciplines including dance, vocal, music, theater, and the visual arts, there’s nothing like The Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

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Judith Beermann
Judith Beermann

The Georgetown Business Association, hosted a reception and tour of the school Thursday evening. Rehearsals were underway (with a live orchestra) for their upcoming production of “DreamGirls” opening Dec. 2, while a student/faculty art exhibition, a vibrant display of sculpture, costume, paint and photographs, filled the halls. With three upcoming invitations for his students to perform at the White House in December, Rory Pullens, head of the school and CEO told the crowd of over 60 business leaders and patrons of the arts, “the First Lady calls us her private glee club.”

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Judith Beermann
Judith Beermann

“All graduates leave one piece of art behind,” Pullens explained as he pointed to an especially large canvas. Why this one, he asked the student? “Because it‘s too big to take in the Metro” the student answered. Pullens lead the group down to the full recording studio and into a student lounge where Duke Ellington donated one of his own pianos.

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Judith Beermann
Judith Beermann

Former student and singer, Ron Newman, now the school's operations manager explained, “more than anything else, Duke Ellington helped me understand the importance of discipline to be a great artist.”

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Judith Beermann
Judith Beermann

Marta Reid Stewart proudly shared the story of a former photography student Solomon Howard, a “kid from Southeast who had failed at Ballou High School, but because of his talent was accepted into Duke Ellington, and went on to graduate from the Corcoran.”

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Judith Beermann
Judith Beermann

For more information and tickets to “DreamGirls” (original DreamGirl Jennifer Holliday makes a special appearance Gala Night, Dec. 9) visit Duke Ellington School of the Arts.