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Duke Ellington School of the Arts

Founded in 1974 in Washington, D.C., the Duke Ellington School of the Arts is the only D.C. public high school that provides pre-professional arts training alongside a college preparatory academic curriculum. Ellington serves 585 talented youth (grades 9-12) from every ward of Washington, D.C., with approximately 33% of students coming from Wards 6, 7 and 8. Each student takes a full academic course load and majors in one of eight arts disciplines: Dance, Instrumental Music, Literary Media & Communications, Museum Studies, Technical Design and Production, Theatre, Visual Arts, or Vocal Music. 

Our mission is to nurture and inspire passion for arts and learning in talented students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to develop their artistic skills. We ensure that our students are prepared for post-secondary education and/or careers in the arts by offering an intensive arts-based program. We prepare our students to become productive citizens in our global society through our strong focus on academics and community service.        

Ellington's unique program gives its students opportunities to experience the arts first hand – by helping them to explore what the D.C. arts community has to offer, through in-class teaching by Ellington's artist/teachers and guest artists, through internships and field trips presented in partnership with local organizations, and by students' own efforts to perform and create. The Ellington faculty includes talented educators and award-winning writers, artists and musicians. They are dedicated teachers who develop close relationships with the students and serve as a surrogate family. For many of our students, the school is a place of refuge from the challenges of daily life and a place they feel accepted for who they really are.  

Ellington students are dedicated and driven. The Ellington school day runs from 8 am to 5 pm, and students often stay later for additional classes, rehearsals and performances. Their dedication to their studies and artistic training is shown in graduation and college acceptance rates that are over 98% – among the highest in DC Public Schools. The graduating class of 2019 was awarded $9.5 million in scholarships. Ellington’s graduates attend universities, conservatories and arts schools across the country, including Yale, Juilliard, Berklee College of Music, Smith College, Howard, Temple, George Washington University, Cooper Union, NYU, University of Southern California, and Massachusetts College of Art and Design.  

Ellington graduates include comedian Dave Chappelle, opera singer Denyce Graves, artist Hank Willis Thomas, actors Lamman Rucker (Why Did I Get Married?), Samira Wiley (Orange Is the New Black, Handmaid's Tale) and Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton), Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancers Samantha Figgins and Michael Jackson, Jr., and many others working in the arts, as well as other fields.