By Punch Pep Correspondent Elizabeth Fischer
On Monday, March 25th 7:30 p.m. in the concert hall of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Duke Ellington School of the Arts will kick-off 40 years of excellence, achievement, admiration, fulfillment and greatness in celebration with a benefit concert. This will be the School’s 6th Annual Performance Series of Legends and will feature legendary Grammy Award-winning American singer, author and actress Patti LaBelle.
Patti LaBelle is one of the most prolific artists in modern music with an illustrious career that spans over 50 years. LaBelle spent 16 years as lead singer of Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, who changed their name to Labelle in the early 1970s and released the iconic disco song “Lady Marmalade.” LaBelle started her solo career shortly after the group disbanded in 1977 and crossed over to pop music with “On My Own”, “If Only You Knew”, “If You Asked Me To”, “Stir It Up”, and “New Attitude.” She has also recorded R&B ballads such as “You Are My Friend” and “Love, Need and Want You”.
Patti LaBelle has received recognition of her works, being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Apollo Hall of Fame, the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame as well as the World Music Awards presenting her with the prestigious Legend Award. LaBelle has sold over 50 million records worldwide.
This event on the 25th is the latest installment of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts’ Performance Series of Legends that has previously featured Dave Chappelle, Denyce Graves, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire and Smokey Robinson.
The Duke Ellington School of the Arts was founded in 1974 and is the only DC high school that provides pre-professional arts training and college preparation to more than 500 talented area students. With a mission to “nurture and inspire passion for arts and learning in talented students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to develop their artistic skills,” the Duke Ellington School of the Arts over the past thirty-five years has continued to maintain a 98% graduation rate with 95% of its seniors being accepted into colleges, universities and conservatories. The contributions of such performers has provided a source of revenue that allows the school to continue providing talented students in the DC metropolitan area the opportunity to receive the highest quality arts and academic education.
I am a school geek. In fact, I just registered for two new classes, the only downside is that the text books/reading materials are now offered on-line (yay for the cut down on cost/boo for the lack of a fresh smelling book). Since I was a little girl, I have always loved the smell of schools, especially on opening day. I love the smell of fresh paper and the excitement I feel when I open a new text book. I’ve always loved buying school supplies, getting measured for a new uniform or buying school clothes; and the day I was old enough to be offered the chance to buy the 64 box of crayons instead of the 8 box, along with markers and real scissors. As education takes a beating and we are lost as to the best way to advance our children’s education in today’s market, I am happy there is a school dedicated to the arts – a necessary step in anyone’s development. And one that should not be left as a scrap at the bargaining room door.
Our push to get rid of the arts is disappointing. While I enjoyed the books and learning, I equally enjoyed my time exploring and creating art. Both were instrumental in the adult I have become today. I can’t imagine not having an outlet to create something in the alternative.
As the eldest of six, I was book smart while my middle sister was anything but … she and I could study for the same exam and where I would get an A and she would be lucky to achieve a C. But what she lacked in book smarts, she made up for in creativity. Her stage name was Crystal Diamond Gold and the plays she created in our backyard were impressive given her tender age. She was always performing! But instead of embracing this she was pushed to be what society saw as successful and we made fun more than we supported. So she struggled and was denied entry into the elementary education school. Yet, my sister today runs an amazing child care & development center and I often wonder had we supported her, where would she be…maybe where she is now but maybe not. But even sadder is that she has a talent that could not be measured by our current school system and luckily for her, she had the drive, ambition and know how to get where she got but, in part it was due to the opportunities afforded her as a child in a school that focused on math, science, reading, etc. and also arts, music, etc. These alternatives should not be taken away under the guise of budget cuts.
While it is important to support traditional schools focused on math, science & reading; it is equally important to support the arts and the schools that offer the alternative outlet, along with an academic education. Patti LaBelle has offered her time, will you? If yes, you will be joining not only the students but other key members and sponsors as well. So please join Honorary chairs Senator Claire McCaskill, Governor Martin O’Malley and actor Malik Yoba, alongside major sponsors such as SAFRAN USA, The Feld Family, Brown Advisory, Dickstein Shapiro, LLP, Nancy Racette & Development Resources, Inc., FedEx, Goulston & Storrs, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Annette M. & Theordore N. Lerner Family Foundation, and T-Mobile USA in supporting the Duke Ellington School of the Arts!
Performance only tickets priced $50-$175 are on sale at the Kennedy Center Box Office at 202-467-4600 or www.kennedy-center.org. VIP tickets at $500 each, and sponsorship opportunities of $2,500-$100,000, are available through The Ellington Fund at 202-333-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit www.ellingtonschool.org for further details or to learn more about the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.
Attorney Elizabeth Fischer is Punch Pep Correspondent. She is working as an Entrepreneur, Lawyer and Student (environmental studies), covering events for Pamela’s Punch as a generalist correspondent. When she is not working, studying or playing soccer or tennis, she is walking her pups, traveling the globe, running marathons, and enjoying all DC has to offer. Contact her at email@example.com.