Duke Ellington Centennial Celebration


Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, a native of Washington, D.C., was a unique figure in American culture. Perhaps no other American musician left such a massive and challenging legacy in composition and performance.

Ellington (1899 - 1974) was known to the public primarily as a bandleader and writer of popular songs. Yet his achievements as a composer and orchestrator were even more significant; in fact, he was one of America’s foremost instrumental composers, a musical genius beyond category. Through his many successes, Ellington became a cultural hero to many people and an international celebrity.

April 29, 1999 is Duke’s centennial. The National Museum of American History, along with people all over the world, is celebrating his legacy with concerts, programs and exhibitions. You can learn more about the Museum's Ellington resources and events through the links and information below.

Site Resources

The Duke Ellington Collection Virtual Tour

The Duke Ellington Collection at the Smithsonian Archives Center - Summary

Duke Ellington biography

Centennial Concert

Halleluja! A Sacred Concert, presented April 29, 1999 at the Washington National Cathedral

Concert press release

Notes on Ellington’s sacred music

Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra

Now in its ninth season, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra was founded with a congressional appropriation in recognition of the importance of jazz in American culture. It serves as the jazz orchestra-in-residence at the National Museum of American History. The orchestra draws on the Museum's History of Jazz Collection and its Duke Ellington Collection to present classic jazz in authentic performances.

The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra’s first CD, Big Band Treasures, Live, captures exciting live recordings of great classics as well as lost treasures of big band jazz. Conducted by David N. Baker and Gunther Schuller, the band features such notables as Joe Wilder, Sir Roland Hanna, Bobby Watson, Dick Hyman, and Keter Betts. Drawn from four years of concerts, the CD includes Sepia Panorama, Echoes of Harlem, and Isfahan, recorded by Duke Ellington; Boplicity by Miles Davis; Artie Shaw’s Evensong; James P. Johnson’s Carolina Shout; and the American premiere of Billy Strayhorn’s Cashmere Cutie. A twenty- eight page illustrated booklet accompanies the recording. The CD is available from Smithsonian Recordings at 1-800-419-5606.

SJMO band member biographies

Biography of John Edward Hasse, Curator of American Music and SJMO's founder

Duke Ellington: A Centennial Tribute national tour - January-April 1999

Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club international tour - July 1999

Duke Ellington Youth Festival

Festival press release

Information from the1997 Ellington Youth Festival


Duke Ellington, Renaissance Man: "Edward You Are Blessed" ( Ellington inspired art by DC Public School students), 3rd floor, west

Duke Ellington and the Smithsonian, highlights from the Duke Ellington Collection in the History in the News case, 2nd floor, west

Ellington Centennial Celebration, more highlights from the Archives Center collection, 3rd floor, east

Duke Ellington: Photographs by Herman Leonard and William Claxton, a special selection of photos near the Hall of Musical Instruments, 3rd floor, west

America's Jazz Heritage Program

The Beyond Category traveling exhibition, the radio series Jazz Smithsonian, and the Ellington radio mini-series are part of America’s Jazz Heritage: A Partnership of the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund and the Smithsonian Institution, a ten-year program of exhibitions, publications, recordings, performances, radio, films, symposia, oral histories, and research activities highlighting the Institution’s commitment to jazz.

Ellington Radio Series

With support from America’s Jazz Heritage: A Partnership of the Lila Wallace- Reader’s Digest Fund and the Smithsonian Institution, Radio Smithsonian is producing a mini-series called "Duke Ellington: A Centennial Birthday Tribute." This 10-week series will begin airing in April 1999, as part of the ongoing series Jazz Profiles, which is hosted by Nancy Wilson. Hours 1 and 2 will provide an overview of Ellington; hours 3 and 4 will cover Ellington the bandleader; hours 5 and 6: Ellington the composer; hour 7: Ellington the songwriter; hour 8: Ellington on film and stage; hour 9: Ellington the pianist; hour 10: Ellington’s influence and legacy. The show will be carried on 160 NPR stations. Check with your local station for availability of this series, or NPR’s Web site.

Jazz Smithsonian

The ninth season of concerts is being recorded for broadcast on Public Radio International on the band’s series, Jazz Smithsonian, hosted by Lena Horne. In the Washington area, Jazz Smithsonian is heard on WAMU, 88.5 FM, during the summer and fall.

WWW Links

Duke Ellington: Celebrating 100 Years of the Man and His Music
A collaboration between the National Museum of American History, the Music Educator's National Conference and the Kennedy Center's ARTSEDGE.

Love You Madly: The Duke Ellington Centennial
Articles and information from the Washington Post.

National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences
Links and an essay by Hasse.

The Duke Ellington Society

Listening Suggestions

Duke Ellington. Concert of Sacred Music. RCA.

__________. Second Sacred Concert. Fantasy.

__________. Third Sacred Concert. RCA.

Various Artists. Big Band Treasures, Live, Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. Smithsonian Recordings.

Suggested Reading

Ellington, Duke. Music Is My Mistress. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1973. Reprint. New York: Da Capo Press, 1976.

Hasse, John Edward. Beyond Category: The Musical Genius of Duke Ellington. With a Foreword by Wynton Marsalis. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993. Reprint. New York: Da Capo Press, 1995.

Tucker, Mark, ed. The Duke Ellington Reader. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.


American History Home

Top: Duke Ellington, ca. late 1960s. Ellington Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.