On June 16th, TEDxJacksonville partnered with Don’t Miss A Beat (DMAB) to host “Music Unites Us,”  a Salon dedicated to exploring music’s ability to convey stories about emotion, equity, access and social justice. The sold-out crowd filled DMAB’s building in the Woodstock neighborhood of Jacksonville. Don’t Miss a Beat was founded by Ulysses Owens Jr and his family. Ulysses greeted us and explained, “Here is where you can find your rhythm,”  not just musically, but also your purpose in life. A group of DMAB students known as the all-stars, dressed in black and white with suspenders, performed an opening dance sequence. Just as a mime would, the movement of their bodies, paired with music, conveyed  a story where words were not needed. Next, we watched Robert Gupta’s TED talk, “Between Music and Medicine.” Violinist Robert Vijay Gupta joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the age of 19. He has a Master’s in music from Yale. Gupta is passionate about education and outreach, both as a musician and as an activist for mental health issues. He has the privilege of working with Nathaniel Ayers, the brilliant, schizophrenic musician featured in “The Soloist,” as his violin teacher. I had heard the expression “Music is medicinal,” but this moving talk is a literal story on the power of music therapy, which can succeed where conventional medicine fails. Following the screening, everyone broke into table discussions, sitting with strangers and discussing facts about Jacksonville’s rich musical history. One example was LaVilla, where Ray Charles lived near Ashley Street before he became famous. Ashley Street was considered the “Harlem of the South” for many years, and its theaters were famous on the “Chitlin Circuit”. Next, we listened to Claron McFadden’s talk, “Singing the Primal Mystery.” “The human voice: mysterious, spontaneous, primal.” With these words, soprano Claron McFadden invites us to explore the mysteries of breathing and singing, as she performs the intriguing modern (has no “notes”) song “Aria,” by John Cage. Claron McFadden is a soprano who studied voice at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Her celebrated operatic roles are numerous and varied. She sings many of the major oratorio works but is also in demand for her interpretation of modern and contemporary music. Jane Condon, one of TEDxJacksonville’s 23 team members, was our Moderator for the evening. Condon was principal of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts during its formative early years and was the founding principal of LaVilla School of the Arts. In between asking the panel questions, she gave insightful information about music being the fabric of our everyday lives. When humans come together for any reason–weddings, sex, graduation, dinner, prayer, and mothers rocking infants to sleep–music is there. She asked the panel questions on how music shaped their lives, and how they felt about the musical Hamilton. They spoke about their views of Beyonce, the youth in art schools, and what’s happening in Jacksonville today. Our panelists, Ulysses Owens Jr, Josué A. Cruz, and Terrance Patterson, all had a very cool, cultured, and educated dapper vibe.   TEDxSalon_How-Music-Unites-Us-CoverPhoto_784x295 copy Ulysses Owens Jr is described by The New York Times as an artist “who takes a backseat to no one.”  Ulysses is a graduate of the inaugural Jazz Studies Program at The Juilliard School, and a two-time Grammy® Award winner. Owens described the need to help develop a love of the arts for underserved youth. He also shared his love for Wynton Marsalis and believes his music and artistry will love on for decades.  Josué A. Cruz is a lifelong advocate of the arts, Josué is a Jacksonville-based writer and musician who has released six albums with several outfits throughout his career. His talents and passions have afforded him the opportunity to work in arts education for a number of years. He still wakes up every morning with the desire to write and play music. He mentioned how “there is so much going on in Jacksonville”. He brought up diverse local musicians going out within the city performing. There’s a lot of exposure points in the city and even if people do not “know” salsa or African Cuban they dance and relate, connect to it. A Jacksonville native, Terrance Patterson has performed in pretty much any place or country you can think of. A clarinetist, Patterson attended the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University. He also is the founder and Executive Director of the Ritz Chamber Players, which has been hailed by The Baltimore Sun as “one of the most interesting and dynamic ensembles to emerge in recent years.” Patterson shared how he “advocates for students to be disciplined and really study their passion”. The word has become fast, you can create and access music right from your computer, but you can tell who has really put in the effort.  After the panel discussion, we heard a powerful spoken-word performance from DMAB student Danyel. Conveyed with professional conviction and emotion, it was impressive and inspiring to see a talent that young from our own Jacksonville city. One line that really stood out: “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” -Andre Lorde We also heard an uplifting song from yet more very talented DMAB students. They had remarkable voices and impactful contagious smiles. The evening ended with the video War/No More Trouble, produced by Playing for Change, a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music. We, encourage you to keep this conversation alive by visiting the Cummer Museum’s new program, LIFT. In summing up the evening, Sabeen Perwaiz  said it best: “Thank you for trusting TEDxJacksonville to lead this conversation.” TEDxJacksonville is a 100% volunteer based organization.  becka_gruber Author: Becka Lee Gruber