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Dave Chappelle

Comedian, Actor, Producer

And the owner of the comedy club, and they were both saying, you know, “if you want to be a good comedian, you’ve gotta take acting classes,” and they didn’t explain it, but after that I went home and I said, “Mom, I gotta take acting classes,” and That’s how the Duke Ellington thing started. The school was incredible. Classical acting, modern acting, improvisation, technical theater, script analysis, script writing.
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Yvette (Erwin) Heyliger

Playwright, Producing Artist, Activist

Class of 1977: An Alumna Reflects on Duke Ellington’s Founding Years of Activism and Artistry

As 2017 drew to a close, I found myself reflecting on the occasion of the 40th anniversary year of the class of 1977. I think I can safely speak for all of us who were the first students to attend Duke Ellington, that no matter which department you were in—dance, theatre, music or the visual arts—the course of our young lives were forever changed by this exceptional arts high school experience. Perhaps what is little known by subsequent generations of students, faculty and school administrations, however, is that they are standing on the shoulders of our activism during a critical year of the school’s tumultuous existence, 1977. That year, we were in the trenches fighting for the very artistic and educational freedoms which current students at Duke Ellington are the beneficiaries of today.
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