DA and Juilliard grad Ulysses Owens, Jr. uses his non-profit to sow inspiration
The Jacksonville arts-based non-profit Don’t Miss a Beat (DMAB), started by renowned jazz musician and Jacksonville native Ulysses Owens, Jr. and family, is perfectly named. The seed for DMAB was sparked by Owens’ time as a student at The Juilliard School and as a touring musician: He noticed community centers in Manhattan and elsewhere, and told his family that Jacksonville needed one. Initially, the Owens had a specific goal to provide a space for high school students to go to when they were suspended from school, so that they wouldn’t “miss a beat” while out of their classrooms.
But the City of Jacksonville and its Jacksonville Children’s Commission had a different specific need and offered a grant to the Owens for a music summer camp at the Hollybrook Housing Project in the city’s northside. As a music camp, “Don’t Miss a Beat” clearly references its subject, and music remains at the core of the organization today, but looking deeper into the phrase and learning about the children they serve — those living in the lower socio-economic bracket who don’t generally have resources like arts and academic assistance — the name becomes something bigger. The organization serves to bring these kids what they need — and that means anything from drum lessons to breakfast — so they “don’t miss a beat” in life.
Ulysses Owens, Jr. feels it his duty to pass along his experiences, give others the opportunities he’s had, and set them on a path not just for success, but for an inspired existence. “I’ve had these great opportunities to go around the world and play with all these different artists, but I really like to be in balance with life, so giving back to children and giving them an opportunity to do what I’ve been blessed to do, for me, it’s what keeps it all happening,” he says.
Owens was introduced to music by his family at a very early age. His mother directed their church’s choir, so she routinely sat her young son behind the drummer so she could watch him as she stood in front, leading the musicians. Owens paid attention, and his mother noticed him keeping a steady beat. Eventually, he became the band’s drummer and music became his biggest passion.
Owens is a 2001 graduate of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts (DA) and credits the school not only for his acceptance to Juilliard and subsequent success as a drummer and music producer, but for the model he has built DMAB upon. A model that can finally come to full fruition as the organization settles into its new home on West Beaver Street — the DMAB Community Art Center at Edith Brown Ford Community Center.
Article written by Meredith T. Matthews