Duke Ellington Center For The Arts Celebrates Duke Ellington's 114th Birthday, 4/28-29
Mercedes Ellington, President of The Duke Ellington Center For The Arts, has announced that the 114th Birthday of her grandfather Duke Ellington will be celebrated with two events this year -- today, April 28, and Monday, April 29 (the Duke's actual birthday).
The Sunday event will be a Free Outdoor Concert from 1:00 - 3:00 PM at the Duke Ellington Statue, Fifth Avenue and 110 Street, the Gateway to Harlem. The following night, Monday, April 29, there will be a Happy Birthday Party and Show from 7:00 to 9:00 PM at Dance Times Square & Latin Ballroom, 156 West 44Street, 3rd Floor, in the heart of Times Square, for which there will be a nominal admission charge.
The Free Sunday afternoon concert will feature an all-Ellington jazz program performed by young jazz musicians and singers from the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (The LaGuardia High School Big Band & Gospel Choir), Grammy-nominated percussionist and Latin bandleader Bobby Sanabria with the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Big Band, jazz-blues pianist and Band Leader Eli Yamin and his student musicians from Jazz at Lincoln Center's Middle School Jazz Academy, The Tap City Youth Ensemble from the American Tap Dance Foundation, Rumba Tap Master Max Pollak, jazz singers Rosemary Loar, Marion Cowings and Antoinette Montague, tap dancers Kathy Conry, Linda Rose, Karen Callaway, Alex Cowings and Tony Waag, and swing dancers Jeff Leyco and Mimi Yiu,
On Monday, April 29, from 7:00 to 9:00 PM, the Happy Birthday Party and Show at Dance Times Square & Latin Ballroom will feature performances by Bobby Sanabria and his Afro-jazz sextet, Broadway and cabaret stars Tim Reid and Erick Pinnick, jazz-blues pianist Eli Yamin, tap dancers extraordinaire Kathy Conry, Linda Rose, Karen Callaway, Alex Cowings and Tony Waag, singers Rosemary Loar, Marion Cowings and Antoinette Montague, award-winning Ballroom Dancer Michael Choi and partner, plus Latin Dancers and more! There will be food, liquid refreshments and a Birthday Cake honoring the Duke's 114th birthday! There will also be a raffle for a dinner for four, hosted by Mercedes Ellington, at The New York Friars Club. Tickets for this gala party are just $45 and may be purchased in advance on www.thedukeellingtoncenter.org.
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 family and friends alike -- 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."
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, 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)
With over 3,000 compositions, he was the 20th century's most prolific composer in both volume and variety. He started playing piano age 7, formed his first band when he was 25; kept it going for more than 50 years.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."