Ellen dared Kerry Washington to play the tuba. She had an inspiring reason to happily accept.

On Nov. 12, 2015, Kerry Washington stopped by "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" to celebrate the daytime queen's 2,000th episode.


All images by The Ellen Show/YouTube.


It's always a good time when Washington stops by talk shows, because she knows how to bring a good story and she doesn't take herself too seriously. And that latter trait of hers came in really handy when Ellen offered a wager Washington couldn't refuse.

Ellen offered $10,000 to whatever charity Washington chose if she could play "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" on a mystery instrument.

Washington agreed without hesitation ... but then Ellen revealed the mystery instrument.

Washington probably wasn't expecting this.

Yes, that's a tuba.

And Kerry Washington had no idea how to hold it, let alone play it.


But charity initiatives are near and dear to Washington's heart, and she didn't want to let them down.

If she managed to convincingly play the tuba, Washington decided she wanted to split the prize money between two organizations: Purple Purse and Turnaround Arts.

Washington is an ambassador for Purple Purse, a campaign to help domestic violence survivors create their own safety net through financial empowerment.

1 in 4 women report experiencing domestic violence in their lifetime. Many survivors stay in or return to abusive relationships because they don't have the financial stability to leave for good — leaving home and jeopardizing employment or medical benefits can be too much to overcome.

Purple is the color of choice for domestic violence awareness, and the organization sells purple purse charms and limited edition bags (including one designed by Washington herself) to raise funds. With the money, Purple Purse offers a free comprehensive curriculum on financial management for domestic abuse survivors. And the campaign has invested over $43 million to help women get on safe, secure paths.

Washington also works with Turnaround Arts, a program providing arts education to schools and students in need.

The initiative brings arts education and supplies, (everything from paint to pianos) to students in high-poverty, low-performing elementary and middle schools in 15 states. By integrating more fine art into the curriculum, the committee hopes to address larger challenges, like attendance, motivation, academic achievement, and parent involvement.

Washington is more than the program's celebrity face. She volunteers at schools, presenting workshops, visiting classes, and attending performances.

Kerry Washington performs with students at Savoy School in Washington, D.C., one of the schools selected for the Turnaround Arts Initiative. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

All this to say, Washington was going to play that tuba, darn it. Whether she knew how to or not.

So with a few warm up breaths and a giggle or two, Washington gave it her best shot.

As a tuba player myself, I can tell you tuba's not as easy as it looks, and it's really hard in a dress. But Washington managed to oompah (OK, she pretty much hummed) her way through "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"! Not too bad for a first-timer.

So while she may have looked a little silly, it was well worth it. Not just for the laughs but for $5,000 for two initiatives doing some great work!

If only every tuba solo could be so lucrative!

See Kerry Washington toot her way through "Twinkle, Twinkle" in this delightful segment with Ellen DeGeneres.

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