Music in the Heart of Miami: YoungArts Kicks off an Epic Series

YoungArts Tower. Courtesy of National YoungArts Foundation.
YoungArts Tower. Courtesy of National YoungArts Foundation.

In the heart of Miami at the corner of the Wynwood Arts District and Edgewater, you’ll find yourself looking at the old Bacardi Tower and Museum buildings, which are now the national headquarters of the National YoungArts Foundation. Featuring competition programs for young artists from all over the country as well as performances for Miami residents, YoungArts fosters creativity across ten disciplines of visual, literary and performing arts, and encourages all young people in their artistic pursuits from the very beginning of their practice through the duration of their career.

Kicking off a series of performances by noted alumni at Ted’s, an intimate performance space named after YoungArts founder Ted Arison, is a show by Allison Miller and her modern jazz band Boom Tic Boom. With a roster that includes Broadway actor Tony Yazbeck, composer Conrad Tao and singer Judith Hill, the series will run over the course of the next nine months and celebrate what’s possible with the right encouragement. “YoungArts has been such an incredible community and support for me over the years,” says Hill, in anticipation of her February performance. “I have met some of the coolest, most talented people and made some very unique collaborations with a lot of them. I love the YoungArts vision and dedication to supporting young people and the arts. Even after high school, the community remains a very active part of my life.” Cultured sat down with Allison Miller as she gears up for her September 12 performance to talk all things YoungArts.

Portrait of Allison Miller. Photo by Shervin Lainez.

You’re coming to play YoungArts not only as a musician, but as an alumna. Does this performance hold a special place for you? Can you speak about your experience as a participant in the program? Performing for YoungArts and its inaugural alumni series at Ted’s holds a special place for me not only as an alumna but as a current contributor to the organization and its mission to cultivate and support our creative youth. I stand behind YoungArts and admire its commitment to aiding future artistic generations. Last year YoungArts brought me to Miami as a master teacher during YoungArts Miami. I was moved by its professionalism and respect for young artists. The young talent showcased throughout the program was incomparable; high level, cutting edge, connecting social justice to their art, challenging the norm: zeitgeists of their time.

My personal commitment to the youth and my belief in “passing it on” is in alignment with the YoungArts pledge to provide young artists with opportunities and direction throughout their artistic careers. We need to listen to the youth, respect them and help their voices be heard. We as mentors can stand behind them, not only offering our experience and expertise, but encouraging and enabling them to speak their truth, discover their full potential, believe in themselves, express themselves, and help them fulfill their destiny as artists giving their wonderful talents back to the community.

How did YoungArts bolster or cultivate your love for jazz and performance? Winning a YoungArts award as a high school student definitely bolstered my confidence and belief that I could, with hard work and determination, become a professional jazz musician. I remember my excitement when I received my certificate in the mail. I hung it on my bedroom wall and every time I looked at it, I was reminded that I AM a talented artist and it is possible to live a creative and musical life. Now, I am fully living a life dedicated to the arts and am grateful for a career that involves composing, presenting, bandleading, drumming, teaching, producing and organizing. It is an honor to be part of YoungArts’ new initiative to reconnect with alumni. They are standing by their pledge to provide professional development opportunities throughout an artist’s entire career.

What kind of role does being in Miami play in your performances and style? For this first ever alumni concert in the new YoungArts at Ted’s series, I am bringing my decade-old band, Boom Tic Boom, with me. We are currently celebrating our fifth studio album, Glitter Wolf. Expect cinematic original instrumental music that takes the listener on a musical adventure while keeping groove and melody at the helm. The music celebrated on Glitter Wolf is heavily influenced by my travels to Cuba, Spain and California. I suspect we will get even deeper into the Caribbean rhythms while in Miami!

Boom Tic Boom is comprised of Allison Miller on drums, Elio Villafranca on the piano, Kirk Knuffke on the cornet, Ben Goldberg on the clarinet and contra-alto clarinet and Nick Dunston on the bass. Tickets to the show are available here.