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R & B Legend Visits Rialto School
By Lea Michelle Cash/Published 05/26/2016/online.precinctreporter.com A5
Celebrities visit elementary schools for all kinds of reasons. Most times, it is to inspire the kids to excel and dream. Recently the talented students at Henry Visual and Performing Arts Magnet Elementary School in Rialto received a surprise visit from the legendary Ambassador of Soul, Ellis Hall. Hall a mentee of the late, great Ray Charles and in the mid 80’s was the lead singer and keyboardist for the soul sensation of Tower of Power. His visit was part of The Brightest Star, Inc. celebrity motivation program to inspire at-risk youth to dream and improve student grades and attendance through the arts.
As a musical genius, diagnosed with glaucoma as a child, blind since adolescence Hall is the master of the guitar, bass, piano, keyboards and drums. He is a vocalist, composer, songwriter, producer, and arranger. Blindness has never defined him. Hall has performed with Kenny G, Steve Wonder, George Benson and Herbie Hancock just to name a few and has entertained thousands worldwide performing with various symphonies and the world’s most well known conductors.
The legend having the honor to perform at the funeral of Helen Keller and for former President William Jefferson Clinton, first inauguration ceremony, delighted the youth with Steve Wonder tunes and a song from “Chicken Run.” Hall is the vocalist star on numerous film soundtracks including “Chicken Run” and “Shrek 2” and had acting roles in the blockbuster hits “Big Mama House and “Catch Me if You Can.” “I am here today because it is important to give children a lesson in R& B Soul up close and personal,” said Hall. And, thus, the school auditorium lit up with the sounds of funk and soul.
The students along with their teachers rocked and clapped with each note. At some point it became a sing- a-along while teachers danced to the old-school songs in the aisles. As Hall began to whine down his mini concert, the children started shouting, “one more song, one more song!” Then Hall stuck the chords of Bruno Marks’, “Uptown Funk”, and the entire student population from kindergarten to fifth grade, along with their teachers exploded—they all went wild. Everyone was on their feet because it is a dance tune to which the kids warm up at the start of their day on every Friday mornings. To hear it played live—priceless.
Henry V.A.P.A Elementary is the only public performing art school in Rialto Unified School District. Last year the school was named to the Renaissance National Honor Roll for outstanding performance in advancing students’ achievement in reading. It is one of only six schools in the State of California to reach this achievement.
The principal Mrs. Mariyon Thompson who has inspired the students to read and dream, instilling that the arts are an essential part of education is retiring and passing the baton. She said, “The legendary singer, composer, and songwriter, the late Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire once said of Ellis Hall, “he is one of the most incredible talents that I have ever worked with. Now the students of Henry can say they experienced a legend whose purpose is music, seasoned with a little funk, soul, and love.”