In the Riverside and Brooklyn communities of Jacksonville, Florida, a kind of happy revolution is taking place. Through their own discovery of the arts, low income, high potential children are learning discipline, beauty, and engagement—and the spillover effect is supporting their social and academic development as well.
The Don’t Miss A Beat Academy of the Arts provides young people with arts training as well as academic and civic engagement programming. It’s a winning combination.
Artistic Director Ulysses Owens Jr.
Don’t Miss A Beat was founded by the family of its artistic director, Ulysses Owens Jr., an award-winning international jazz musician and acclaimed composer. He has performed on Grammy award-winning albums and is a 2015 Jazz at Lincoln Center Swing Award honoree.
Yet, one senses that Owens’ heart is in his hometown of Jacksonville, FL where DMAB is providing arts training to students who otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to it.
“DMAB operates within communities that have no access to the performing arts,” Owens told me in an e-mail. “We offer high-level arts training to children who are hungry for transformation in their lives.”
A nonprofit, DMAB has established partnerships with local colleges and schools to provide free music lessons. It also offers lessons in dance, vocals, and other performing arts disciplines. Owens says the vision at DMAB is “arts being a bridge to a better life.”
The Better Life
In existence since 2008, DMAB started with a music, art, and academic enrichment summer camp. It now provides arts training during the school year as well as the camp. There is no cost to the children, except for the summer camp, which is at a special reduced rate. All the programs are designed for children who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch in school.
Kennedy Chisolm, a 15-year-old tenth grader at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, told me in an e-mail that she likes DMAB, and not just because of the arts, “but also [because of] the life lessons.” Her favorite subject is science, but she’s hoping to study vocal education at The Juilliard School in New York City.
In fact, an all-star troupe of 12 students from DMAB will be performing at Juilliard next month. According to DMAB, their troupe will be the first outside group to perform at the prestigious school.
For more information about Don’t Miss A Beat, visit its website.