Although the late Ella Fitzgerald left for New York City as a young girl, her legacy lingers in Newport News, Virginia. “Ella came from the neighborhood our center is in,” says Joanne Palmeira, of the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center. “Her story is proof that, regardless of where you come from, you can achieve your dreams when you set your mind to it.”
On Ella Fitzgerald Way, in the Ella Fitzgerald Theater, the arts center will celebrate what would have been the famed jazz chanteuse’s hundredth birthday with performances from whiskey-voiced jazz and gospel singer (and G&G cover model) Lizz Wright and Rhonda Ross, daughter of Diana, during the Ella Fitzgerald Music Festival, which kicks off Wednesday, April 19. Come early to visit In Ella’s Lifetime: 100 Artists for Ella, an exhibit of paintings, sketches, and photographs inspired by the woman of whom Bing Crosby once said, “Man, woman, and child, Ella is the greatest of them all,” on display until April 30. A hundred years after her birth, the Queen of Jazz still reigns.