On stage, Julian Spires says he comes alive.
"When I get here, it's just like, release," he says. "When my fingers hit the keys, it's over. It's complete done. I'm in another world."
He's a senior at Duke Ellington School for the Arts, perfecting one of his last pieces as a student here. And very soon, he'll perform with superstar Patti LaBelle.
Next week, 100 of his classmates will join him on stage with LaBelle. After months of preparation, the show's producers say the students are almost ready.
"I'm nervous about playing, but I'm very excited about directing an experience," Spires says.
The standard is high at Duke Ellington. These are the halls comedian Dave Chappelle roamed, the stage opera singer where Denyce Graves sang.
"The hours are so long at Duke Ellington, if you're really going to be an artist, if you're really serious about it, you don't just work 9-5," says principal Rory Pullens.
Lately, practices have been on weekends and after school. But for Spires, it's hardly work at all.
"I want to be playing with the stars. I want to be playing for the stars, so it really helps me for what I want to do," Spires says.
Sharing the stage with LaBelle isn't a bad place to start.
The performance is Monday at 7:30 pm. Tickets are still on sale for upwards of $175 dollars. The school hopes to raise $500,000 total from the performance.
For more ticket information, click here.