kevin_willis_web.jpgFORT LAUDERDALE — A seed sown is a harvest destined to be reaped, and Women in Jazz South Florida is positioned to reap greater success as the organization pursues it purpose of educating, entertaining and stabilizing our community through the brilliance and eloquence of jazz music.

On Jan. 25 at The Broward Cultural Center, middle school students and spectators watched in excitement and amazement, captivated by an array of finger-snapping jazz sounds at an event with the theme, “From Bebop, To Doo Woop, To Hip Hop.”

The riveting music was composed and performed by jazz musicians who included the Parkway Middle School Jazz Band, and Joan Cartwright, Women in Jazz’s founder and executive director. 

Other noted musicians among the lineup of talented artists included Dr. Malcolm Black, 20-year veteran leader of the Broward College Jazz Band and the highlighted arranger of the event; Jus’ Cynthia, composer and performer; Robin Avery and Paul Banman, composers of Light the Way; Arthur James Wilson, former Sam & Dave band director; and Melton Mustafa Jr., band director and maestro of Parkway Middle School.

Women in Jazz South Florida is a nonprofit organization, not limited to women musicians, that appreciates and celebrates the contribution of all who treasure jazz music. 


The organization’s latest event was colorful, exciting and inspiring, as the Parkway Middle School Band collaborated with seasoned musicians to deliver their best renditions of songs composed by legendary jazz greats.

Through the performances spectacular in sound and rhythm, the audience became engaged by the first song, Countin on the Count, composed by Cartwright. The youths played as professionals, not missing a note. Young girls dressed in red-sequined tops and black bottoms graced the audience with jazz-worthy voices, their performance delightful and enthusiastic throughout.

The atmosphere was set for celebration and the audience was truly receptive as schoolchildren watched their peers in admiration. Black-and-white images of prominent jazz musicians flashed across a screen as the band played seamlessly. It was an honorable merging of old with new, paying homage to the legends who paved the way. Each song performed was enjoyable and inspirational, as students of varied cultural backgrounds played with one accord conveying one message: music, jazz music. 

Among several highlight moments that thrilled the audience, Cartwright, a musician who exemplifies excellence in her artistry, wowed observers with her ability to combine rap beats and lingo with jazz music in her well known song, Talkin’ that Jazz. The audience engaged in a “call and response” tribute to the legend as she pumped her fist, moved her hips and talked a lot of jazz. 

Additionally, many were clearly surprised by talented 17-year-old Kevin Willis’ renditions of Rogers’ and Hart’s Blue Moon, and Why Do Fools Fall In Love, written by Frankie Lyman. Willis’ voice was remarkably trained and mature, and his peers cheered in amazement as the young aspiring musician commanded the stage. What inspires his ability to sing with such confidence?

“I have been singing since I was a child,” Willis said. “I discovered my voice by accident, as I sang a song heard on the radio and my aunt thought that I was the radio.” As he enters college next year, he said, he will pursue business and music to further his career and his love of music and performing.

The event concluded with the soothing sounds of Robin Avery and Paul Banman, and their song of encouragement, a beckoning call for a greater tomorrow, entitled Light the Way. 


Women in Jazz South Florida’s vision of combining established jazz musicians with youths who appreciate the art was a success. The performances were a respectable tribute to jazz music. Cartwright brilliantly entertained, while expanding the minds of each child who participated and/or watched the performance.

“Building peace through the arts,” she said, is her mission.”  

Music is the soul of our community as it is the universal language, Cartwright added, therefore, we can acquire peace and harmony through music. 

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Photo: Courtesy of Lynn brown

KEVIN WILLIS: His peers marveled at his mature voice on ‘Blue Moon and ‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love.’