Duke Ellington School recognizes jazz greats on namesake’s birth date


The IAMELLINGTON group congratulates each other after being the recipient of The Daryl Libon Social Justice Award for their commitment to protecting and advocating for Duke Ellington School of the arts.Photo credit Mike James.

by Suzanne Struglinski

Duke Ellington School of the Arts honored the “I am Ellington” campaign and senior saxophonist Joshua Teague at a jazz-filled celebration on April 26, recognizing what would have been its namesake’s 120th birthday.

Jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut, Duke Ellington student award recipient Joshua Teague, Tia Powell Harris and Angela Jones (Director of Arts) backstage. Photo credit Mike James

The “Jazz City” event also marked the inaugural presentation of the Daryl Libow Social Justice Award. The “I am Ellington” campaign, formed last year during the school’s enrollment investigations, received the award for its commitment to protecting and advocating for the school.  

Teague received the Davey Yarborough Excellence in Jazz Award for his talents on the saxophone, among his many musicalities. He played to crowds at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium stage last March, and is also a drum major for the school’s marching band, “The Radical Elite Show Band,” while serving as a school ambassador. He recently received a scholarship from the Posse Foundation, and will attend the University of Rochester, with plans to major in Physics/Optics with a minor in Music Performance, according to his Kennedy Center performance bio.

Marcus Johnson displays his multi-talented skills by singing and playing the piano. Photo credit Mike James.

“Both Davey, the founder of our Jazz Studies program, and Daryl, a beloved Ellington Fund Board Member who recently passed, have dedicated their lives in an unyielding commitment to jazz arts through fundraising, instruction, collaboration, historical curation, and support of the uninterrupted evolution and diversity of jazz music,” said Tia Powell Harris, CEO of Ellington, of the award’s originators.

After the awards ceremony, “Jazz City” event attendees enjoyed a concert by Marcus Johnson and Cyrus Chestnut along with a jam-session afterparty by the school’s Arts Jazz Orchestra, directed by Carroll V. Dashiell, Jr.

Talented jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut plays a signature musical composition.Photo credit Mike James.

Chestnut, a Baltimore native and professor of Jazz Piano and Improvisation at Howard University, has recorded more than a dozen studio albums, and has worked with Terence Blanchard, The Marsalis’s, Dizzy Gillespie, Kathleen Battle, and the late Aretha Franklin, among others. Jazz pianist and keyboardist Marcus Johnson creates, produces, and releases music under his Three Keys Music label.