Celebrate Ella Fitzgerald's 100th Birthday at Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center

The 19th Annual Ella Fitzgerald Music Festival featuring Rhonda Ross and Lizz Wright, April 19 - 22, 2017

In honor of Ella’s 100th birthday, we celebrate Newport News’ beloved native daughter at the 19th Annual Ella Fitzgerald Music Festival with four days of festivities for all ages. The festival kicks off on April 19th with Ella’s birthday party for school age kids; April 20th is college night featuring CC Sun Child with performances by Heritage High School and the VSU Dr. Billy Taylor jazz program; April 21st Rhonda Ross, actress, singer and daughter of legendary Diana Ross performs and on April 22nd we wrap up the festival with acclaimed vocalist Lizz Wright at our finale concert.

In 2008 in Ella’s memory, the City of Newport News re-named 24th Street “Ella Fitzgerald Way” and the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center’s brand new 276-seat theater was named the Ella Fitzgerald Theater. The theater is located a few blocks away from her birthplace on Marshall Avenue. The Grand Opening performers (October 11 and 12, 2008) were Roberta Flack and Queen Esther Marrow.

“The centennial celebration is an amazing opportunity for everyone to experience the magic that is Ella Fitzgerald. We are proud to say that Newport News is where Ella began, and we are excited to honor her legacy.” said Michelle Gilliam, Director of Theater for the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center.

Also on April 1st, a free public gallery reception will be held at 6:30pm in the Newport News Community Gallery. The exhibit, “100 Artists for Ella”, features works by 100 artists inspired by the songs/song titles of Ella Fitzgerald.

For tickets or more information on these and other events, visit www.downinggross.org or call



About Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center

The Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center is a multi-purpose cultural space in the Southeast community of Newport News, VA. Originally built as the Walter Reed School, the historic building has been restored and open to the public since October 2008. The building is owned and operated by the City of Newport News, Parks, Recreation and Tourism department.

The center houses several event spaces and large/small group gathering rooms available for event rental. The core of the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center is the Ella Fitzgerald Theater, a 276-seat venue named for the “First Lady of Song.” Other event spaces in the building include the Anderson Johnson Gallery, the Newport News Community Gallery, the L. Marian Poe Meeting Room, the Banquet Room, and the Charles C. Allen Executive Board Room.