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The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts Will Commemorate The Duke's 115th Birthday With Outdoor Ceremony & Concert, 4/27-29

The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts Will Commemorate The Duke's 115th Birthday With Outdoor Ceremony & Concert, 4/27-29

Although the legendary Duke Ellington passed away on May 24, 1974, nearly 40 years ago, his fame and stature continue to grow and blossom. Just this past year alone, After Midnight, a big band musical featuring all-Ellington music in a tribute to Harlem's famous Cotton Club, opened on Broadway and is one of the favorites for winning a TONY Award this year; an SRO audience cheered the hundreds of students who participated in Arranging Ellington, concert of Ellington's sacred music, at Carnegie Hall this past March 23; and the Duke Ellington Center Big Band is finalizing plans for concert tours of France and the US during the upcoming year.

As the world prepares to celebrate the 11Sth birthday of the legendary Duke Ellington on April 29, 2014, the 20th century's most prolific composer in both volume and variety with more than 3,000 compositions to his credit, the Duke Ellington Center for the Arts is planning two celebrations to commemorate the event, it was announced by Mercedes Ellington, the Duke's granddaughter and Founder/President of the Center.

The first event -- on Sunday, April 27, at 1:00 PM (Rain or Shine) -- will be a free outdoor ceremony and concert staged at the Duke Ellington Statue, which stands majestically at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 110th Street - the Gateway to Harlem; and two days later (on Duke's actual birthday, Tuesday, April 29) the Center will present Duke Ellington's 115th Birthday Bash, a festive Birthday Party and Musical Show, from 7:30 to 10 pm, at Ballroom Off Fifth (37 West 37th Street, between 5th Avenue and Avenue of the Americas), for which there will be a nominal admission charge of $45.

The Sunday afternoon concert will feature an all-Ellington jazz program, produced and staged by Ms. Ellington, an award-winning dancer/choreographer, featuring young jazz musicians and singers from The Middle School Jazz Academy (MSJA), The Youth Workshop Band (Jazz at Lincoln Center) and the LaGuardia High School Senior Jazz Band; multi-Latin Grammy nominated Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Orchestra, conducted by percussionist and Latin bandleader Bobby Sanabria; vocals by renowned jazz singers Marion Cowings and Antoinette Montague; two swing dance couples and one tap dancer.

The Tuesday night Birthday Bash Party and Show, at Ballroom Off Fifth, will feature music by the Eli Yamin Trio, tap dancers, among them Alex Cowings, ballroom dancers, including Michael Choi and partner, and a controlled Open Mic featuring Marion Cowings, Antoinette Montague, Swedish singing star Viktoria Tocca, Adrienne Haan and Kent Drake,

There will be food, liquid refreshments and a Birthday Cake honoring the Duke's 115th birthday! Tickets for this gala party are $45 and may be purchased at

Mercedes Ellington, who will host both events, says, "These birthday events are very special to me. 'Uncle Edward' - the name Ellington preferred to be called by his family - tried to instill his values with me. I started The Duke Ellington Center For The Arts to ensure that these values - his musical legacy and the term 'beyond category,' which he used to define excellence - will live on. Along with the great work of Wynton Marsalis in this area, we are dedicated to making Uncle Edward's legacy continually meaningful to new generations of musicians and music lovers."

"The mission of The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts is to preserve, promote and further the music and philosophy of this American genius through performance and education."

Founded in 2004 by Mercedes Ellington, director/ choreographer/performer and producer who is Duke Ellington's granddaughter, The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to further Duke Ellington's creative legacy and his philosophy of human harmony 'beyond category.' The Center mounts performances marrying Ellington's music with other art forms, especially dance and theater; and also sponsors a variety of educational initiatives. As funding for the Arts and Arts Education continues to diminish, the Center's commitment to these areas strengthens. The Center furthers knowledge of Duke Ellington as a composer, lyricist, bandleader, performer, artist, and writer. The Center also strives to keep an historically accurate record of all things Ellington for the benefit of future generations.

Among its goals, The Duke Ellington Center plans on developing Duke Ellington's staggering number of musical compositions into multi-disciplinary theatrical presentations, and educational programs, to be performed in many different types of venues in many countries. By revisiting his many diverse compositions, The Center will be following in the example of Ellington himself by exploring new directions that will breathe new life and excitement into those exemplary works.

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (April 29, 1899 - May 24, 1974) was the 20th century's most prolific composer in both volume and variety with over 3,000 compostions. He started playing piano age 7, formed his first band when he was 25 and kept it going for more than 50 years. In the 1920s, he began calling his compositions American Music when it was popular to view only classical music as "cultural." Duke was determined to make American Music something to be proud of worldwide. In the 1930s and 1940s, he took his band all over the globe, bringing American Big Band Music, Jazz, American-style Sacred Music and Blues to audiences large and small on every continent. In the 1950s and 1960s, The US State Department launched its Jazz Ambassador program, and Duke became a key component of that highly successful exercise in global cultural diplomacy. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1966 from Lyndon Johnson, and the Medal of Freedom in 1969 from Richard Nixon. In the 1970s, The Jazz Ambassador initiative ended in 1972 after Duke, though battling terminal cancer, made his last Goodwill Tour through Africa. He died two years later. He was honored posthumously in 1999 with a Pulitzer Prize. Duke Ellington is a source of immense pride for Americans of all races. He felt that racial integration was just a stepping stone to a much more important universal goal: "Human harmony beyond category."

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