A musician’s work, backed by a grant, is setting the stage for Broward children to be able to take a swing through parts of Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, all done by music.
Willie Stewart, president of Solutions in Music, received the grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as part of the foundation’s Arts Challenge to produce a music program, “Rhythms of Africa, Music Around the World.”
The grant was among several announced by the foundation on Nov. 27 at a ceremony at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami.
The program Stewart is putting together will take children on an odyssey from Nigeria to Ghana, through the Ivory Coast and parts of North Africa, across the Atlantic to Brazil, Cuba, New Orleans, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, ending back in Florida.
Stewart’s mission is to show how African-infused rhythms have influenced lives, linking past and present, while demonstrating how drums have gone beyond the African Diaspora.
He will host a seven-week workshop for 30 musical novices, aged 13-16, on the drum, the history of rhythm in Africa and how it came into the “New World.” The multi-dimensional workshop and live performance will put the teenagers with no previous music training on stage with professional musicians.
The training will culminate in performances on Oct. 14-15 at Fort Lauderdale’s Parker Playhouse.
“With his deep musical experience, Willie Stewart is the right person to help guide young South Floridians through the beauty and history of African and world music,” said Dennis Scholl, vice president for the arts at the Knight Foundation. “By learning about different cultures through art, we can bring people together and foster a greater sense of community.”
Stewart is a prolific musician, educator and master percussionist whose career includes playing for reggae bands Inner Circle and Byron Lee & the Dragonaires and 23 years as director and percussionist for Third World.
He has performed and recorded with Stevie Wonder and Eddy Grant, has performed live with Carlos Santana and Bob Marley and has shared the same stage bill with Quincy Jones, Sting, Michael Jackson, Bryan Adams, and U2. He has appeared in videos and in the movie/documentary Prisoner in the Street.
According to the Solutions in Music website, Stewart was born in England to Jamaican parents and the family moved to Jamaica when he was a young boy. As an adult, he returned to England and within two years became a licensed educator and facilitator of music through school-based training and workshops.
He came to Florida in 2000 and for the next three years worked with libraries and cultural organizations. Stewart created Solutions in Music in 2003.
For more information on the Knight Foundation, visit www.knightfoundation.org.