Don't Miss A Beat is on a mission to make sure that no child in Jacksonville, Florida gets left behind. For a decade the organization has worked to combat Jacksonville’s high dropout rate as well as other issues that plague our youth in this city. Utilizing the performing arts, academic enrichment, and civic engagement, Don't Miss A Beat has made positive and measurable impacts on our neighborhoods and communities.
This week we spoke with the entire team to find out more about the origins of Don't Miss A Beat, to learn in detail how far they've come and what they've accomplished since the organization's inception, and to get a glimpse of what the future holds for them.
Tell our readers about Don't Miss A Beat - what is it, and where and how did it get started?
Since 2008, Don’t Miss a Beat has been bringing performing arts to youth and families in Duval County who otherwise may never have access. We exist primarily to address the need for performing arts, while also serving the needs of the entire community. Believing that the “arts are a bridge to a better life” for underserved communities in Jacksonville, DMAB brings music & arts and academic enrichment together to inspire and enlighten the students of the Riverside, Brooklyn, and Woodstock communities, as well as to ensure arts exposure for all residents of the surrounding areas.
What is the mission of Don't Miss A Beat?
The mission of Don’t Miss a Beat, Inc. (DMAB) is “…to blend music, art, academic achievement, and civic engagement to inspire and enlighten children and teens in the Riverside, Brooklyn and Woodstock communities.”
What programming does DMAB offer to the youth in Jacksonville?
One of our many successful programs is our Academy of Arts, which provides undeserved children access to FREE Performing Arts instruction in the area of Dance & Yoga, Drama, Vocal, Music Theory, and weekly Instrumental (Woodwind/Brass and Strings) instruction and the Creatively Young program for toddlers. This program merged with our After-School Homework Assistance program and our Music and Arts and Academic Enrichment Summer Camp program, has united a much larger community that has been desiring a place where the children can learn and grow, while families gather and support them. Our Music-Arts and Academic Enrichment Summer Camp is our flagship program. During summer camp the children received six weeks of artistic instruction in every genre taught by local and visiting artists. The visiting artists also possess professional experience from Broadway, television network sitcoms, feature films, and many have been selected for Grammy Awards. The summer camp ends with the Finale Showcase Production which is the highlight because it allows families and friends to see their children perform.
What are the ways in which you think organizations like DMAB contribute to the culture in Jacksonville and the wellbeing of children and teens in our community?
Jacksonville, Florida is a big and powerful city, there is opportunity for more consistent emphasis on the artistic community and it is essentially the “belly of the beast;” concerning the challenges. In the initial onset of “DMAB”, our research discovered that statistically teens and children in some areas were left without community support to care for them or provide direction, and that is where the seed of crime is planted and begins to grow.
Community and the Arts organizations like Don’t Miss a Beat partnering together can create an opportunity for intersection and collaboration with diverse communities. This collaboration can bring the city closer together and will create dialogue and opportunities where we can become a powerful and united community.
How impactful do you feel the program has been to the community and young people involved?
A significant increase in families and students inquiring about and participating in our community-based programs demonstrates an emergent appreciation in our community. This can also provide a strong desire amongst its residents for access to quality programming. DMAB introduces the Arts to an underserved population who have never had any exposure to artistic programing. This exposure, many times creates a spark within students who never knew they had talent; resulting in a passion for creativity.
Our Artistic Programing provides free instrumental lessons and instruments to students whose parents can not afford to rent instruments or pay for music lessons. This is also the case for students who aspire to pursue dance, vocal training, and visual art. Many of our students have been accepted into local Schools of the Arts as a result of being in the DMAB program.
What growth and improvements have you seen in DMAB since its inception?
DMAB started in 2008 with a vision to bring artistic programing to youth in underserved communities. Since our inception we went from not having a “home base” to the DMAB Community Art Center located at the Edith Brown Ford Community Center in Woodstock Park. This is all because of our partnership with COJ/JaxParks who allow us to use this facility to operate our programs. The success of our growth has been through strategic partnerships with the University of North Florida Music Mentors Program, On Ideas Ad Agency, LaVilla School of the Arts, Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, and the Sulzbacher Center. We kicked-off our ART in the PARK - funded by PNC Arts Alive Grant which is a series of concerts for the communities in Woodstock, at the Sulzbacher Village, and other venues. Finally, DMAB has partnered with the Peninsula Condos who has hosted the Peninsula Toy Drive for nine years. This event supports 50 DMAB families which provides toys, clothing and other necessities for the adopted families.
What challenges have you and/or your fellow coordinators faced throughout DMAB's development?
Three sets of challenges that are changing and dissipating daily...
Infrastructure - It has taken years to really build a solid infrastructure that is a reflection of the skill-set of our team and vision. Having a desire to transform the community isn’t merely enough - it takes years to truly develop partnerships and a solid foundation for our organization to expand upon.
So much of the level of excellence for productions, and programs at “DMAB,” are set by the artistic director Ulysses Owens, Jr. who balances his time between Jacksonville and New York City. To maintain the level of artistry, Ulysses is constantly looking for additional resources within Jacksonville to aid in their efforts. There is still much the artistic community is getting exposed and connected to within the city.
Patience - Ultimately at “DMAB”, there is a great vision in action that we desire to fulfill, but it takes patience and knowing that over-time we will continue to develop and achieve more of our vision.
What sort of support has DMAB received from the business sector?
DMAB has received strong support through grants from Kids Hope Alliance, the City of Jacksonville, Florida Cultural Arts, Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, the Community Foundation and several companies such as Bank of America, PNC Bank, and many private donors.
How do you see DMAB growing and expanding further in the years to come?
We desire to expand in 2019 by simply not turning away any child in our summer program. We sometimes have a waiting list of about 20 - 30 kids. We desire to create an expanded edition of our camp so no child is told “we are at capacity” who desires to be part of “DMAB.”
We also desire to license the DMAB model in 2020 and beyond to various organizations within the US that desire to make a similar impact in similar communities.
Lastly, we would love the opportunity to create maximum impacts.
How does DMAB define success in what you do?
Success to us is measured by results rendered and impact. We can look at our programs and statistically we have improved the surrounding neighborhoods where our community centers are located. We have created lasting and impactful partnerships that have assisted the community. Lastly, and most importantly, we have seen the lives our children and families change for the better.
We'd like to thank Don't Miss A Beat for their participation in this interview. We'd also like to thank you for reading.
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