Duke Ellington School of the Arts

Duke Ellington School of the Arts

Duke Ellington School for the Arts in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. undergoing renovation in 2016
3500 R Street Northwest[1]
Washington, D.C. 20007
United States
School type Public high school
Established 1974
School district District of Columbia Public Schools Ward 2
Head of school Jahi Kennedy
Faculty 20.0 (on FTE basis)[2]
Grades 9 to 12
Enrollment 531 (as of 2012-13)[2]
Student to teacher ratio 24.55[2]
Campus type Urban

School Website

Western High School
Coordinates 38°54′47″N 77°4′14″W / 38.91306°N 77.07056°W / 38.91306; -77.07056Coordinates: 38°54′47″N 77°4′14″W / 38.91306°N 77.07056°W / 38.91306; -77.07056
Area less than one acre
Built 1898
Architect Harry B. Davis, Snowden Ashford
Architectural style Classical Revival
MPS Public School Buildings of Washington, DC MPS
NRHP Reference # 03000673[3]
Added to NRHP July 25, 2003

The Duke Ellington School of the Arts, (established 1974), is a high school located at 35th Street and R Street, Northwest, Washington, D.C., and dedicated to arts education. One of the high schools of the District of Columbia Public School system, it is named for the American jazz bandleader and composer Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (1899–1974), himself a native of Washington, D.C. The building formerly housed Western High School. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[4]

Graduates of the school are prepared to pursue an artistic and theatric occupation. In addition to completing the traditional public school curriculum, students must audition for and complete studies in one of the following artistic areas: dance, literary media and communications (L.M.C.), museum studies, instrumental music, vocal music, theater, technical design and production (T.D.P.), and visual arts (V.A.).

The school developed from the collaborative efforts of Peggy Cooper Cafritz, a long-time member of the D.C. School Board and Mike Malone, a veteran of Broadway, off-Broadway, contemporary dancer, director, and master choreographer, who were co-founders of Workshops for Careers in the Arts in 1968.[5] In 1974 this workshop program developed into the Duke Ellington School of the Arts at Western High School, an accredited four-year public high school program combining arts and academics. It is currently operated as a joint partnership between D.C. Public Schools, the Kennedy Center, and George Washington University.[6]

Students and faculty

Ellington currently serves approximately 500 students in grades 9-12. Most students commute in from outside of Ward 2, where the school is situated.[6] The academic faculty is fully credentialed and includes seven Fulbright scholars, various PhDs, and DCPS's only national board certified teacher (NBCT) in young adulthood English/language arts.


Ranked as one of D.C. Public Schools' top high schools, Ellington's curriculum requires students earn 34% more credits than those at other D.C. public high schools.[7] Students must maintain a minimum grade point average in both academics and the arts to be permitted to perform and, ultimately, to stay enrolled at Ellington. The school has a 99% on-time graduation rate.


Ellington's mission is to emphasize the arts as much as academics.[8] It offers training in eight disciplines: Dance, Literary Media and Communications, Museum Studies, Instrumental or Vocal Music, Theater, Technical Design and Production, and Visual Arts.[9]

In support of their arts program, the school offers master classes taught by accomplished artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Billy Taylor, Lynn Whitfield, and Lionel Hampton.[7]

The school is recognized for, among other things, its award-winning Duke Ellington Show Choir. Established in 1986, the Choir performs all types of music including Broadway, Gospel, Spirituals, Opera, Jazz, and R&B. The creator, Samuel L. E. Bonds, studied with Todd Duncan. Students in the Choir are required to continue performing academically, maintaining a minimum grade point average of 3.0. As well as performing as part of an ensemble, they are also allowed to focus on solo work. It performs a holiday show of Amahl and the Night Visitors yearly.

The Show Choir has traveled to Europe, Asia, and throughout the United States and territories. It has performed at the White House for Presidents Barack Obama Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and in both Mayor Adrian Fenty and President Barack Obama's inauguration. The Show Choir has shared the stage with Earth Wind and Fire Clay Aiken, Patti LaBelle, Jasmine Guy, Patti Austin, Beyoncé Knowles, Boyz II Men, and Denyce Graves. The Choir has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and sang The Star Spangled Banner for the opening of the Washington Nationals first baseball game.

College acceptance

Over 95% of Ellington graduates are accepted into universities and conservatories each year. Ellington alum have studied at Washington Adventist University, Howard University, Yale University, New York University, Harvard University, Manhattan School of Music, The Juilliard School, Parsons School of Design, Spelman College, Morehouse College, Pratt Institute, Berklee College of Music, The Oberlin Conservatory, American Musical and Dramatic Academy and among other institutions.

Application process

In order to be admitted into Ellington, students must complete an admissions application and audition before a panel. Upon passing the audition students take an academic assessment test, and complete a family interview.[10]

Relocation controversy

In January 2010, The Washington Post reported that the D.C. government was studying a plan to relocate the school to a new site near Union Station. Jack Evans, the D.C. Council member for the school's host ward, advocates the plan as a way to move the school to a more "central" location relative to its student body, as well to allow the current Ellington site to revert to a standard neighborhood school.[6] Opposition from students, parents, alumni, and others has been strong, including online petitions and a Facebook group with over 1,700 members.[5] Shortly after The Washington Post report, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced that the school will not be moved in the near future.[11]

Notable alumni

The school in 2008

See also


  1. GNIS entry for Ellington School of the Arts;
  2. 1 2 3 DCPS Profiles. Accessed January 23, 2014.
  3. National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  4. http://focus.nps.gov/pdfhost/docs/NRHP/Text/03000673.pdf
  5. 1 2 Porter, Norma (4 February 2010). "Ellington Community Fights to Keep School in Georgetown". The Washington Informer. Retrieved 12 February 2010. Archived July 29, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. 1 2 3 Turque, Bill (17 January 2010). "Ellington arts school might be moved out of D.C.'s Ward 2". The Washington Post. Washington Post. Retrieved 12 February 2010.
  7. 1 2 3 Kennedy, Randy (12 April 2006). "Dave Chappelle Spotlights Duke Ellington School of the Arts". The New York Times. KEYT-TV. Retrieved 12 January 2010.
  8. Archived October 21, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. Archived December 27, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. "Admissions Process & Application". Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  11. Turque, Bill (22 January 2010). "Ellington arts school staying put for now, Rhee says". The Washington Post. Washington Post. Retrieved 12 February 2010.
  12. pdf - caa-newsletter
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