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.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less