Opera Singer Performs to Benefit Duke Ellington School of the Arts

Edith Billups | 12/29/2008, 3:22 p.m.

€Sophisticated Lady - An Evening with Denyce Graves€ will feature the critically acclaimed vocalist and Duke Ellington School of the Arts alumna in a benefit recital on Feb. 25 at the Kennedy Center that will include classical music, pop, Americana, spirituals and jazz.

A benefit for the Washington-based performing arts high school, Graves is a D.C. native who is one of the opera world€s brightest stars. She rose to stardom after being raised by a single parent near the Blue Plains sewage plant in Southeast D.C. A graduate of Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and the New England Conservatory, Graves has performed in some of the world€s most renowned opera houses. Tickets for the singer€s home-town performance went on sale Dec. 10 at the Kennedy Center box office and are expected to sell out quickly.

A mezzo-soprano, Graves said she is excited about the February concert €because this school is the reason that I have the life that I have today. Often, I am called upon to do benefit performances, and I tell the agency that they have to put a cap on them because I have to make a living, too. However, this one is quite different and has a lot of meaning.€

In recent years Ellington, a college preparatory public school, has suffered from a drop in funding and personnel.

€The cost of running a premiere arts school has always been more than the revenues the DCPS system has been able to provide at Duke Ellington. [It€s] not because they haven€t wanted to, but because there are limitations as to how far a district can go in terms of providing all the desired resources for every program,€ said Rory Pullens, head of school at Duke Ellington.

€Therefore, Duke Ellington has always sought to attract additional revenue through various creative outlets. One such way has been to have our alumni, who have a national and international presence, come back and put on a benefit concert for the school because there are so many needs. This is what Denyce Graves is doing.€

Pullens noted that what this generosity represents €cannot be shared in words.€

€It gives Duke Ellington a broader exposure, and it lets people know that this school is doing something so worthy that someone of Denyce€s stature would want to take the time to reach back,€ Pullens said.

For the Feb. 25 performance, Graves will be accompanied by musical accompanists, including some students from the world renowned Duke Ellington Show Choir. For tickets, call the Kennedy Center box office at 202 467-4600 or call 800 444-1324.