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Local news: Chuck D speaks at Duke Ellington School; Stevie Wonder performs benefit concert

ellingtonFighting the Power 101: Public Enemy's Chuck D spoke at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Thursday. (Nick Kirkpatrick/FTWP)

Ever notice that Stevie Wonder prefers la-la-la-ing to ooh-ooh-ooh-ing? Here's a theory: As one of the most joy-inducing musicians on this planet, Wonder knows that it's hard to smile while singing along with an ooh. Go ahead and try it. Tough, right? Now sing the la-la-las that open "Mon Cheri Amour." Smiling is no problem.

Fans had plenty to smile about when a 59-year-old Wonder performed at the Kennedy Center Thursday evening -- a concert held to benefit the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Georgetown. Earlier in the day, Public Enemy founder Chuck D, songwriter Kenny Gamble, singer Chrisette Michele and others spoke at the school about the importance of the arts in education.

But the day of fund-and-awareness-raising peaked with Thursday evening's concert. Wonder performed some of his greatest tunes -- "Superstition," "Living for the City," "Golden Lady" -- and gave a special shout-out to first lady Michelle Obama who waved to the crowd from the balcony.

The singer also talked a little politics. "Tea Party? C'mon. Get outta here," Wonder exclaimed to resounding applause. "There's a new America... and it's about love."

(Big names visit Ellington, after the jump)

Thursday afternoon, Chuck D, Gamble, Michele, singer and Ellington alum Sylver Logan Sharp and singer-guitarist Rev. Vernon Burch spoke to students and press about the importance of arts in education -- as well as Ellington's capital campaign to raise money in tough times.

"This school should be a prototype," Chuck D said during the conference. "The arts can't support the community if the community can't support the arts."

Before the conference, Head of School Rory Pullens explained the necessity of the fund-raiser. "It is no secret that school district budgets are decimated and money is being lost year after year," Pullens said. "To run a program like Duke Ellington you need the support."

Pullens said he knew it was a longshot to get Wonder to perform a benefit concert for Ellington and was incredibly grateful when the singer accepted his invitation. "He understands the importance of giving back to arts education," Pullens said.

By Chris Richards  |  February 26, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Local news  | Tags: Chrisette Michele, Chuck D, Stevie Wonder  
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