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A School That’s Been Changing the Lives of DC Youth Since 1974

Duke Ellington School of the Arts nurtures and develops students who otherwise wouldn’t have access to serious training in the arts.

Located in Washington, DC, the prestigious Duke Ellington School of the Arts was founded in 1974 and is nationally recognized as a leading arts high school. It’s the only school that provides professional arts training and college preparation to talented DC public school students.

Admission into Ellington isn’t simple – the rigorous application process includes four aspects: an online application plus supplemental materials, an audition, an academic assessment test, and a family interview to ensure a mutual fit between student and school.

The 500 students who attend Ellington not only take a full academic course load, they also major in one of eight arts disciplines - Dance, Literary Media, Museum Studies, Instrumental or Vocal Music, Theater, Technical Design and Production, and Visual Arts. Additionally, the school places special emphasis on community service and prepares each student to become a productive citizen in our global society.

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. This focus results in a 99% on-time graduation rate and almost $1 million in college scholarships. 95% of seniors are accepted to competitive universities and conservatories, including Yale, New York University, Harvard, Juilliard, Smith, Parsons School of Design, Pratt Institute, and others. This is a particularly remarkable achievement given that some students arrive at Ellington with only elementary-level reading and math skills.

An amazing thing about this institution is that for District residents, attendance is free. For teenagers serious about higher education or a career in the arts, it’s an unmatched resource in a city with notoriously tough neighborhoods.

Pianist Clifton Williams is one of several From the Top alums that have attended Ellington. From an early age, Clifton loved playing the piano and wanted to better himself as a musician.

“I wanted to do what was best for me—and [Ellington] was the school…My teachers [were] really great. They [always took] time out of their busy schedules to help us, and I really appreciated that.”

Clifton has since graduated Ellington and is currently studying piano performance as a Presidential Scholar at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.