Non-profit brings Duke Ellington's 'Sophisticated Ladies' to New York City schools

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As part of Black History Month, Kemberly Richardson has the story of an organization bringing a classic Duke Ellington musical to schools.

A non-profit organization is bringing the classic Duke Ellington musical "Sophisticated Ladies" to more than 25 public schools throughout New York City.

From the very first note, the students are mesmerized. For many at PS 69, the celebration of history and music is their introduction to live theater.

The production, put on by Inside Broadway, utilizes professional performers and musicians.

Founder and executive director Michael Presser hopes his non-profit brings in a entirely new generation of theatergoers.

"I think the long range involvement and long range results from these types of activities is really quite extensive," he said. "It's sort of like talking a pebble and dropping it into a pond, and you begin to see the ripples that come out from it. That's what happens here."

The performances are part of a program, made possible because of grants, that ties directly into the curriculum. In class, the students learn about the Harlem Renaissance and Duke Ellington. They also go to an after-school program.

"It's really exciting, because they're doing it correctly, everything," student Joyti Nath said. "And I compare it with us, and it's like, they are so much better than us."

The production will be seen by roughly 10,000 kids in public schools throughout the five boroughs over the next two months.

"We're a school of immigrants," PS 69 arts coordinator Debbie Stack Cregan said. "We have 26 languages spoken here for our students, and here with arts, it really levels the playing field for those students who have not caught up either academically or with their language skills."

And that is music to everyone's ears.

Related Topics:
educationeducationentertainmenttheaterschoolbroadwayJackson HeightsNew York City
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