willie-sewart_web.jpgFORT LAUDERDALE — Willie Stewart, who played percussion for 23 years with the legendary band Third World, returns with his “Rhythms of Africa” Oct. 15 for two special sold-out concerts — this time along with his former Third World band mate Michael “Ibo” Cooper, plus more than 30 international musicians and 60 students.

Rhythms of Africa is a musical odyssey that creates a point of inspiration for children who have never played drums before, and leads them into the confidence to perform music from Africa, Trinidad, Jamaica, Brazil and Cuba in a professional show.

With Willie’s rigorous instruction, 60 at-risk youngsters from the Lauderdale Lakes Educational Complex’s Smart School Charter Middle and Eagle Charter Academy will experience, as their families and the

community look on, unforgettable performances that they’ll cherish forever.

Through his Embrace Music Foundation, the students, ages 13-16, are receiving at no cost six weeks of rigorous world-class instruction, provided by Stewart, that began Sept. 2 as a part of the educational complex’s afterschool program.

On the heels of a sellout inaugural show held in Miramar in February 2010, this project received The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's Knight Arts Challenge Grant of $25,000 in November 2010. For the free event Oct. 15 at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale, tickets were made available to the public last month.

Stewart is a strong advocate for sharing the power of the arts with children, which allows them to discover who they are and how they impact the world in which they live. 

“I have seen many times how children’s lives are changed, turned around for the good, when they’re given a chance,” he notes. “It isn’t me, it’s the music.”

The Embrace Music Foundation’s mission is to preserve and fortify music education, appreciation and performance in communities where it is endangered by its removal from school curricula.

The Embrace Music Foundation aims to integrate music back into general educational programming through programs such as Rhythms of Africa — a musical journey that describes the movement of ancient rhythms sprung from the souls of vibrant cultures and carried by hand and heart from Africa to the Caribbean, South America and the New World. 

On the Web: RhythmsofAfrica.net and Facebook.com/RhythmsofAfrica

Photo: Courtesy of The Embrace Foundation

INSPIRATION: Master percussionist Willie Stewart and the kids, enjoying a musical journey thanks in part to a Knight Foundation grant.