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Howard Theatre Officially Reopens

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The statue of Duke Ellington faces the newly renovated Howard Theater in Northwest D.C., which will reopen to the public today.
Markette Smith
The statue of Duke Ellington faces the newly renovated Howard Theater in Northwest D.C., which will reopen to the public today.

The stage that launched the careers of Ella Fitzgerald and Marvin Gaye is set to reopen as Mayor Vincent Gray cuts the ribbon for the restored Howard Theatre this afternoon, where construction crews have set up a mock stage outside the theatre.

Billed as 'The Theatre for the People,' the Howard Theatre opened its doors in  1910 in the District's Shaw neighborhood. It became a first-of-its-kind showcase for black artists.

With the reopening on Monday, a jazz band has been set up to perform next a newly unveiled Duke Ellington statue. It features piano keys that ascend into the sky.

"On top of the building is the jazz man, and that is the symbol of the music history of this theatre," says Carole Copeland, coordinator for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Sean Hennessy, one of the many artists who contributed to the $29 million restoration: "I was fortunate enough to be invited to help out with the statue that’s going on top. I created the Trumpet."

He created the jazz man’s trumpet out of concrete, but explains that another artist designed its shiny blue figure, which can been seen twinkling in the sunlight hundreds of feet away.

"And then there’s silver, stainless steel washers that are what sparkles," says Hennessy.

Howard Theatre is open for public tours starting today. An official grand opening gala and benefit concert is scheduled for Thursday.

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