Home Morningside Events - Morningside Area Alliance Music 125th Year Tribute to Duke Ellington, Composer and Musician


Harlem School of the Arts
645 St. Nicholas Avenue


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Apr 19 2024


7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Formats (virtual, in person, hybrid)


125th Year Tribute to Duke Ellington, Composer and Musician

Duke Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974)

Two talented, musical parents raised Duke Ellington in a middle-class neighborhood of Washington, D.C. At the age of seven, he began studying piano and earned the nickname “Duke” for his gentlemanly ways. Inspired by his job as a soda jerk, he wrote his first composition, “Soda Fountain Rag,” at the age of 15. Despite being awarded an art scholarship to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, Ellington followed his passion for ragtime and began to play professionally at age 17. In the 1920s, Ellington performed in Broadway nightclubs as the bandleader of a sextet, a group which in time grew to a 10-piece ensemble. Ellington made hundreds of recordings with his bands, appeared in films and on radio, and toured Europe twice in the 1930s. It was Ellington’s sense of musical drama that made him stand out. His blend of melodies, rhythms, and subtle sonic movements gave audiences a new experience—complex yet accessible jazz that made the heart swing. Ellington’s autobiography, Music Is My Mistress, was published in 1973. Ellington earned 12 Grammy awards from 1959 to 2000, nine while alive.

The voices of Harlem Opera Theater will present excerpts from “My People”, which was conceived, written, and staged by Duke Ellington to emphasize the positive achievements of black people in American life, rather than protest injustice.