Duke Ellington Show Choir prepares to take their talent overseas

The 2011 Duke Ellington School of the Arts Show Choir is taking their talent across the waters and heading to France and Monaco on a two-week European tour. The choir, composed of 27 members, both students and alumni who will be traveling overseas, performed a taste of their songs in the front yard of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Georgetown, in one of their final rehearsals Wednesday.


The Duke Ellington School of the Arts Show Choir rehearses on the front lawn of the campus in a final rehearsal before their two - week trip to Europe. (Photo by Arianna Nagle/DAI)

Samuel Bonds, the founder director of the Show Choir who has been with Duke Ellington for 28 years, is looking forward to the talented ensemble performing well and giving their audiences abroad a memorable experience: “To me, if art does not cause someone to have an experience, whether it’s a painting or whether it’s a play or singing, if people don’t experience something, then I figure there’s no reason to do it,” he says. The show choir will perform American music, from gospel to spirituals, Broadway, and beyond. “We can’t sing French music better than they can,” Bonds says with a laugh.

According to their itinerary, the tour will take the singers from Paris to Cognac, through Nice and Monaco, with fun stops in between, including Euro Disney. 17- year-old rising senior Julia Braxton thinks this is going to be a really great experience.


The Duke Ellington School of the Arts Show Choir rehearses “Rock-A My Soul” on the front lawn of the campus in a final rehearsal before their two - week trip to Europe. (Photo by Arianna Nagle/DAI)

Between concerts at the French Embassy, churches, and other locations in Washington, the choir has seriously exerted themselves with fundraising, Braxton says. “We’ve just sung everywhere to raise money.”

Keandra Garner, outgoing student president of the show choir, is looking forward to traveling outside of Washington, and thinks that this tour will help her decide whether or not she would like to pursue music full time as a career. “...this is lot of traveling and a lot of touring, so it’ll help me a lot too, to make my decision on my future.”

Funding for the trip, however has been a long road. Even though the choir has been practicing since the beginning of the school year and has received donations and sponsorship from several outlets, including international development firm Development Alternatives Inc., fundraising didn’t kick off until January. As of Wednesday evening, the musicians were still $10,000 short of making their goal, but Terri Braxton, outgoing president of the Parents and Friends of the DESA Show Choir (and mother of Julia), is hopeful that they will meet their goal, as the ensemble has been given several donations already, in addition to raising over $100,000. “We have really raised it by these kids working. They have been performing everywhere. If we could get a gig, we got it.” she says.”We believe in miracles, this whole trip is a miracle, so we know somebody is going to write a check.”

The Show Choir will leave from Dulles on July 2 and return July 16. For more information, check the Choir’s Facebook page.

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