When artists come together to invest in the future of music education, it expresses a true commitment to the craft.
On Saturday, Dec. 5, Roosevelt “The Dr.” Collier jammed alongside members of Flat Land, Come Back Alice, Locochino, Gritt, S.P.O.R.E, Displace, Parker Urban Band, Holey Miss Moley and many more at the first-ever Future Music Makers benefit.
What started out as wishful thinking became a reality last April when Future Music Makers (FMM) founders were awarded $15,000 in crowdfunds at OneSpark Festival. The win gave the musicians enough seed money to start making moves and launch the organization.
Founded by Florida-bred funk-pop eccentrics Flat Land, Atlanta-based livetronica duo Bells & Robes and marketing and special events firm Phairground, FMM is a nonprofit that finds new ways to instill a love of music in local youth.
Eleven acts donated their time to play for more than 300 music lovers at hot spot The JAM: Gainesville. After six months of planning, the event introduced the mission of FMM to the community and set the tone for what’s to come.
“We all realized collectively that music was something we had the opportunity to learn at a young age,” said Fae Nageon De Lestang, Flat Land’s visionary violinist and frontwoman.
At 9:30 p.m., Flat Land hypnotized the crowd with a barrage of booming drum solos and sultry, strong vocals. After performing “Turn,” an ever-growing fan favorite, Nageon De Lestang invited Come Back Alice’s violinist Dani Jaye on stage. The two virtuosos played off one another in one of the best performances of dueling fiddles to date.
But as government funding for music and art programs continues to be cut, it becomes less likely that children will follow in these footsteps. The void in the curriculum grows larger, leaving remaining music courses understaffed and underfunded. The effect of this deficit runs deep.
“A lot of the kids in some of the schools we’ve worked with don’t even know that music is an option for them,” said Luke Sipka of Bells & Robes.
To combat this, the founders began to pool their talents and slowly develop a program that would have a lasting impact. It’s broken down into four main parts: private lesson scholarships, public school partnerships, workshops and master classes, and instrument collection.
The artists who performed at the benefit were hand-picked based on a demonstrated passion for the FMM mission, but many local musicians were quick to jump on board. Collier’s background in music made him an obvious choice.
Strong to his roots in Florida, one of his first memories is being surrounded by family members rhythmically banging on pots and pans. He played five times a week in the Church as he grew older, picking up tips and tricks from his uncles. He said he wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for his early start.
“Kids can pick up things crazy fast,” he said. “You teach the kids at a young age so they can choose their own path.”
Collier guided Saturday’s SuperJam with an inclusive, integrative magnetism that mirrored the Dr.’s famed Suwannee Getdowns. Five minutes before they hit the stage, he went over the game plan. Collier had no problem with maximizing the outdoor platform, inviting as many people on stage as possible.
Later in the night, the collaborative spirit took hold as 19 artists jammed together in an entirely organic SuperJam. The non-stop groove was infused with long-time favorites, with one of the highlights being Nageon De Lestang and Holey Miss Moley’s Danny Clemons cover of “Superstition.” As the bandleader, the Dr. recognized stand-out solos and gave each musician a chance to control the sound.
“Sure enough, the first song was pure magic,” he said. “At that moment when they’re shining, it’s their ballgame, and they’ve got the power to take it wherever they want.”
Collier’s background in music heavily influenced his decision to join hands with the FMM movement, so much so that he gave up another gig in Richmond, Virginia that was scheduled on the same night. FMM’s long-term goal is to keep building a network of musicians to volunteer at multiple different skill workshops that will be held each month in the new year.
“I felt the need to come and be a part of this,” Collier said. “This is our future. It’s a big circle, and it all works together.”
Future Music Makers has held assemblies, Q&A’s, lyric and rhythm workshops, after-school programs, and games tailored to the meet the needs of each and every age group. One of the main goals is to collect and restore used instruments to lend support to local music teachers who often receive less than $1,000 a year for supplies.
“We’ve realized that through our network, we can provide a lot of the resources that these programs need,” Nageon De Lestang said.
The ground-breaking SuperJam brought diverse musicians together to show support for music education as a whole. It proved that FMM is more than a nonprofit, it’s a catalyst for empowering youth, inspiring creativity and keeping the love of music alive.
“This is the start of something big,” Collier said. “Mark my words… this night will be remembered ten years from now as history.”