Paul Mercer Ellington is currently the Conductor and Bandleader for the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He is also a noted songwriter and producer.
Paul Ellington was born and raised in Denmark, but often traveled to other countries with his father. Unknown to Paul, his dad was grooming him for a very serious job. Paul had many different musical interests, some of which included the drums, trumpet and percussion. In the end, he focused his talents on the piano.
When Paul was eight years old, he went on his first trip to Japan. This journey was very difficult and satisfying at the same time. It was hard because he didn’t have a road crew to help out, and satisfying because he had a chance to mingle within a different culture.
Paul later began to tour with his father, Mercer K. Ellington. One day, Mercer pulled him aside and said “Son, this is all yours, make sure you keep it going!” It became clear to Paul that he did want to follow in his father’s footsteps. So he started to take piano more seriously and learned musical scales. However, the teachers in Denmark were mediocre to say the least, so after much frustration, Paul Ellington decided that moving to the United States was the only way to advance his career in music.
Paul Ellington ‘s parents agreed that moving to America was the best way for Paul to learn. His father had already set up an audition for The School of Performing Arts in New York City. Paul Ellington rescheduled a trip to Italy just to make the audition. He was not impressed with the school, and so it wasn’t so heartbreaking when he found he had not been accepted. His father then set up a meeting with the Manhattan School of Music. There, the dean told Paul he could enroll the following semester. Paul also met his future teacher, Dr. Peter Vinograde, who he would learn much from during the two semesters Paul was to study in Manhattan.
Paul Ellington left the Manhattan School of Music to study under an incredible teacher named Tommy James, who would become a lifelong friend to him. Paul had written small bits of music since he first saw a piano, and he was getting better thanks to encouragement from James. Unfortunately, Paul’s plans were about to be put on hold.
Paul received a call from his mother, who told him that his father was ill and pled for him to come home on the next available flight. After a week his father died of heart complications and pneumonia. Paul was crushed and did not know where to turn so he knew it was time to think. He wanted to help but all he heard was “Shut up” and “Listen” Paul wanted to support the band, but they didn’t seem to want his help. He eventually debuted his first composition for Big Band at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, and he received a huge ovation from the crowd.
Since then there have been some changes made to the Duke Ellington Orchestra: Paul Mercer Ellington is now the Conductor and Bandleader.