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Student Spotlight

Congratulations to several of our Visual Arts students for winning the 2022 Links Incorporated Poster Competition! The following students designed and created original artwork currently on view at the Reagan National Airport. The location of the exhibit will be Reagan National Airport on the wall along the pre-check walkway between Gates A9 and B10 until Spring 2023. Click here to read more. 

Alexander Berko – “Untitled”  First place winner 
Leah Schenbaum – “Equality Through History” Third place winner Ana Gonzalez-Galvan – “Lupita” Second place winner
Taylor Banks  – “Sidney Poitier’s Time” Fourth place winnerAsiah Miller  – “Rising Horizon” Fourth place winner
Anjeleka Johnson  – “A Piece of Me (BLM)“ Fourth place winnerLavinia Aguilar  – “Untitled” Fourth place winner 
Lula Tankersley – “Pride” Fourth place winnerJacinda Tsegaye-Harshaw  – “Change Through Writing” Fourth place winner

Six of our Theatre Department students attended the British American Drama  Academy’s (BADA) Midsummer intensive program in Oxford, England this summer. BADA exists to provide high-quality, modern actor training with a foundation in British theatre traditions. Here’s what our students had to say about their experience at BADA:

Raina Taylor: “My time at BADA was transformative. Not only was I able to develop new techniques to take my art to the next level, but more importantly, I walked away from the experience with a better sense of self and confidence. BADA made me a better actor and person, coming back from the program I feel prepared and excited for my senior year.”

Autumn Whetstone: The British Academy of Dramatic Arts Midsummer Conservatory was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m very grateful to have gotten a generous Scholarship from Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation to attend BADA. The summer program was an additional training to my studies at Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Exploring the depths of Williams Shakespeare’s plays and the man himself was admirable cultivation of my passion for theatre and the arts. The profane faculty and instructors were innovative, dedicated, supportive, caring, and visionary. I’m very thankful for the amazing ensemble I’ve spent 3 weeks with and will cherish the lifelong friendships that made the experience immaculate! I have strengthened my passion, technique, confidence, and spirit from this program which I will never forget. I am forever grateful to Duke Ellington’s Theatre Department, specially Kaia Calhoun for giving me this opportunity.”

N’Dea Banks-Mackey: “My time at BADA was something so surreal it felt like a dream, Because of the Andrew Lloyd Webber scholarship I was able to live my dream. I had so much fun, learned new things, applied old techniques, and made new friends. Oxford quickly became my home and the people around me became family. I wouldn’t have asked for better teachers, better people, or a better experience. I will always remember the late-night talks, being creatively goofy in the rehearsal room, going to see plays, and making new memories with the people around me. Sharing wild experiences and heartfelt moments with some of the greatest people in the world.”

Moyo Ifafore: “I am so fortunate to have received the Norman Ayrton Scholarship to attend the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer Conservatory Program. The program definitely allowed me to focus on my craft in a way that I had not done before. The program was full of immersion in the culture of The Bard, with trips to Stratford (Shakespeare’s hometown), and The Globe in London. Not only did my knowledge about Shakespeare himself deepen, but my knowledge about how to approach his text did as well. I strengthened my ensemble and devising work, as well. All this was wrapped in the rich history of Oxford, as we stayed on Campus at St. John’s college for three weeks. I am so grateful to the Theatre Department for connecting us with the BADA program.”

Sydney Downs: The Midsummer Conservatory at BADA was an extension of my training at Duke Ellington. In Oxford, I learned a lot about William Shakespeare himself, and his plays from its premise. Oxford has a unique culture and history, I had so much fun hanging out in local shops and restaurants with students and staff from all over. The faculty at BADA was very knowledgeable and supportive. They provided me with a new learning experience unlike here in the US, and lessons that will be forever useful. They also gave helpful tips for auditioning and preparing for college. Ms. Calhoun, thank you for all your support and for preparing me to compete. I also have to thank the American Theatre Wing for selecting me as a recipient of the Andrew Lloyd Training Scholarship. They made sure this experienced happened!” 

The World Languages Department is pleased to announce that three of our students received large scholarships to participate in study-abroad programs offered by the Student Diplomacy Corpse, a valued partner of our World Language Department. A big congratulations to Sofia Smith who will go to the glaciers of Canada, Ariel Wright who will explore slow food in Italy, and Dakara Reid who will travel to study in multicultural Mexico!

Jonathan Hobbs, Vocal Music junior, Jordyn Jones, Vocal Music senior and Mr. Nearing joined forces and were hired to perform Beyoncé’s “I Was Here” to kick off Teach for America’s 30th Anniversary Gala on Friday, May 6. From event organizers, “Thank you so much for your exceptional performance. The music, yourself, and your students were simply phenomenal. All of us were really glad to have you there.” Bravo Jonathan and Jordyn! You are true professionals and it was an honor and pleasure to share this experience and the stage with you both!

Five Theatre Department juniors, Moyo Ifafore, Makiela Mauney-Brooks, Ari Jackson, Sydney Downs, and Lauren Williams, will perform at the National Gallery of Art for a piece in the “Afro Atlantic Histories” exhibition on Saturday, April 30 at 1:00 p.m.

The piece, When We Gather, is a collaborative art project conceived by visionary artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons in response to Kamala Harris’s successful election to the Vice-Presidential office. The original aim of performing live on the White House grounds during the inauguration was not possible due to COVID-19. The upcoming performance will be the first time When We Gather will be performed LIVE and the first-ever performance work by an artist to be showcased at the National Gallery of Art.

During the performance, our students will sing an original song under the direction of our Director of STEAM and Arts Innovation, Mr. Greg Watkins. (Read More)

Congratulations to Vocal Music senior, Jordyn Jones for receiving her golden ticket to Hollywood and making it to the next round of auditions for American Idol!

Congratulations to Theatre students Lila Kay, Ari Jackson, Sydney Downs, Rainah Taylor, N’Dea Banks Mackey, and Autumn Whetstone for being accepted into the British America Drama Academy’s (BADA) Midsummer Conservatory program in Oxford, England! The Midsummer Conservatory Program is an intensive three-week program of Acting and Shakespeare Cultural Studies.

Two of our Vocal Music students, Ella Hinds and Christian Blair will star in Elton Jon and Tim Rice’s AIDA on Sunday, April 3, 2022, at 4:00 p.m. Based on the opera by Giuseppe Verdi, Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA is a timeless love story, featuring an award-winning pop/rock score from the seasoned pop duo who brought musical life to Disney’s The Lion King. Rousing rock numbers, heart-wrenching ballads, and inspirational choral numbers bring the ill-fated lovers into a new era.

Ella will play Aida, and Christian will play Mereb. Don’t miss out on this performance by the Young Artists of America!

The Vocal Music Department would like to congratulate our 2021-2022 Williams Opera Prize winner, Alyssa Richardson on receiving a full scholarship to Spelman College. She will begin her studies in the fall as a Chemistry major on the Pre-Medicine track with a Music minor. Congratulations Alyssa, we love you madly!

You are cordially invited to join José André, Instrumental Music sophomore, for his Birthday Celebration, with two wonderful performances at Blues Alley. Featuring amazing musicians: Angel Bethea on drums, Herman Burney on bass, Reginald Cyntje on trombone, and special guests.

When: Wednesday, March 23, 2022
Time: Sets @ 8:00 p.m. and @ 10:00 p.m.
Where: Blues Alley
1073 Wisconsin Ave NW

View more details!

Sabrina Sabahi, a Senior in the Technical Design & Production Department, has made the World Languages Department proud by being awarded the Maria Wilmeth Award conferred to a high school student of Italian who has demonstrated excellence in the language. She was one of the guests of honor at the gala hosted by the Italian Cultural Society of Washington DC on October 14, 2021, and was given a check for scholarship as a prize.

Ellington alum Shaylin Watson (Class of 2015, Dance) was recently highlighted for her performance this weekend. From October 21-23, the legendary choreographer Ronald K. Brown and his dance company EVIDENCE are teaming up with legendary musician Meshell Ndegeocello to put together live, dynamic performances of his choreographies “Mercy,” “Grace” and “The Equality of Night and Day: First Glimpse” — all held within the Kennedy Center.

Ronald K. Brown is one of the most renowned choreographers of our generation. He’s known for his seamless blend of modern Black dance forms with traditional African movement vocabularies, with his work displaying all facets of human nature — love, tragedy, resilience, loss and more.

Brown, along with EVIDENCE, will be presenting “Mercy,” along with the two other pieces. “Mercy” is his collaboration with D.C. native Meshell Ndegeocello — a groundbreaking musician whose artistry is genuinely difficult to define. Her solo work bends and wraps genre, with attempted definitions falling somewhere around a combination of neo-soul, jazz, funk, among others. Click here for the full article.

Literary Media & Communications sophomore Saquoya Gorham joined President Joe Biden, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, and the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities invite institution leaders, faculty, students, and supporters to the 2021 National HBCU Week Conference that was held virtually September 7-10th. The annual National HBCU Week Conference is the nation’s premier convening of key influencers in the HBCU space. The conference featured special performances by the 105 Voices of History HBCU National Choir with The United States Navy Band and student poet, Saquoya Gorham, 10th-grade student at Duke Ellington School for the Arts. Click here for the full article.

Class of 2021 alum, Makiyah Hicks and Jonetta Harrison (Technical Design and Production) in front of their high school, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, in Washington, D.C. They are finalists in this year’s NPR Student Podcast Challenge for their entry “Loss and Transformation.” TDP Faculty Member, Thom Woodward oversaw the podcast production and is also featured. Click here for the full article.

Anthony Anderson (Class of 2016) Cantate’s inaugural Young Artist of Color, together with pianist Michael Crabill (Ellington Faculty), presents a stunning program of art songs and spirituals, including Beethoven’s complete cycle “An die Ferne Geliebte,” Vaughan Williams’ “Songs of Travel,” and works by Carlos Simon, Margaret Bonds, Leslie Adams, Moses Hogan, and more. Cantate Chamber Singers is thrilled to emerge from hibernation with a cameo performance of Undine Smith Moore’s “We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace.” The event is this Sunday, September 19, 2021 at 5pm at Bethesda Presbyterian Church. Buy your tickets here.

Vocal Music’s Mellow Tones performed on a CNN graduation special May 23, with keynote speaker Vice President Kamala Harris, and showed the nation Ellington magic!

The Washington Nationals welcomed nearly 9,000 fans on May 25. Senior Sean Polk sang the national anthem, but the Nats failed to replicate his winning performance.

Instrumental Music students performed last week during an event for the U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. The performers were Jose Montano-Baina on piano and members of the Radical Elite drumline: Jabulani Clay on quads; Gavin Ferguson on cymbals; Rain Graham on bass drum; and Karl Kittleson on snare drum.

A podcast from Technical Design & Production seniors Jonetta Harrison, Makiyah Hicks, and Anna Wells has been selected among 15 high school finalists in the 2021 NPR Student Podcast Challenge!

The trio was among students from 47 states and DC who submitted more than 2,600 podcasts. They spent the last few months like NPR professionals – recording interviews, editing tape, creating home studios, and reading their stories into a microphone.

Topics included climate change, sibling drama, and the challenges of school and life in the pandemic. The TDP students’ self-produced podcast – featuring music by Instrumental Music junior Elijah Woodward – is titled “Loss and Transformation.” They spoke with three family surviving members of victims of gun violence. Judges will select two grand-prize winners, whose podcasts will air on NPR. For full list of finalists, click here.

Instrumental Music junior Sammy Rabinowitz was featured recently in Washington Jewish Week. The article describes how Sammy started playing drums at 4 and “hasn’t missed a beat since. He’s a member of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington and a former student at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. Along the way he picked up the piano, mallet percussion and drums, and helped found the band Dark Trilobite. To read more, click here.

April is Jazz Appreciation Month! The artist depicted on the official 2021 poster is pianist, singer, songwriter, storyteller and civil rights activist Nina Simone. And the artist who depicted her on the poster is Visual Arts sophomore Naa Anyele Sowah-De Jesus! To learn more about Simone and JAM, click here.

Thirteen Instrumental Music students won scholarships to Washington Adventist University last month! The awards were based on their recorded submissions of “He’s Got the World in His Hands” as part of WAU’s Virtual-Oso MusicFest.

Megan Jones, Jackson Grant, Rosemary Sellers, Jose Montanto, Zarina Lewis, Wend Pitroipa, Lor’ren Littlejohn, David Marsh, Jodie Kaberia, Santiago Duran, Sofia Smith, Han Binkholder, and Eliora Brown-Egue won four-year scholarships ranging from $2,000-$6,000 per year.

Awards were announced during the event’s last performance, which aired on Facebook.

During a Women’s History Month event last week sponsored by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Vocal Music junior Nia Alsop sang “Superwoman,” by Alicia Keys. Nia begins at the 15:28 mark.

Congratulations to Theatre freshman Willow Singleton for winning the American Legion Oratorical Contest (DC Division) and to fellow Theatre freshman Ruby Garritano for placing second!

Each student had to prepare an 8- to 10-minute speech on any Article or Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Then they had to be prepared to deliver a 3- to 5-minute speech on one of four assigned topics, selected at the competition.

Willow won a $5,000 academic scholarship sponsored by the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation and The American Legion in recognition of her achievement as DC’s 2021 oratorical champion. Ruby will be awarded scholarship money as well.

Congratulations to Literary Media & Communication junior Mikayah Lee for making a film that’s been selected to the 9th annual Bethesda Film Festival! One of two high school filmmakers in the festival, Mikayah produced her film – “You Think You Know Me” – as a music video to accompany a song of the same title by Instrumental Music junior Sam Rabinowitz.

“I was asked to create the video and I wasn’t exactly sure what to make,” Mikayah says. “But after listening to the song, and understanding the messages of equality, empowerment, and unity, I was moved and clear about what needed to be shown visually. I hope this video encourages people across the world to come together, stand up for what you believe in, call out the racism and injustices, and do everything you can to ensure we have real change in our country. Until we do that, we won’t solve these problems.”

To view the festival’s seven films, click here. To register for viewing a discussion with the filmmakers at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 16, click here. Viewing the films and attending the discussion are free!

Congratulations to Museum Studies faculty and seniors Jamari Basabe, Armiya Farooq, Mailah Graham-Bond, Kenia Hernandez, Iyanna Morgan, Sahara Porter, Jasmine Reid, Natalia Rodriguez, Jasmine Smith, Diara Stubbs, and Falōin Williams for their wonderful virtual exhibition, “Expressions.” It provides a visual memory of the seniors’ final year at Ellington, and a glimpse of what they’ll carry into the future.

Department Chair Marta Reid Stewart heard from an arts professional who wrote: “These works represent excellence! Very high quality and competitive with anyone in the visual field! Different voices. Different perspectives. Different challenges. So reminiscent of today’s challenges in America.”

To view the exhibition at the Ellington Arts Museum, click here.