Making History Today: The two-time Grammy-winning trailblazer has played drums for Kurt Elling, pushing the boundaries of Black artistry.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Miles Davis, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington are just a few Black artists who played a pivotal role in making jazz music a global phenomenon.
Now, Ulysses Owens Jr.’s unique sound adds to the musical landscape.
While climbing up the ranks, his rhythm and beat continue to transform lives.
“At my core, I just really love music,” Owens said. “I love people and I want to radiate that energy and love.”
The two-time Grammy-winning trailblazer is no stranger to the stage. Playing drums for Kurt Elling and the Christian McBride Big Band, Owens has pushed the boundaries of the sound of Black artistry.
Growing up, he enjoyed playing the drums for his church. But despite his raw talent, he faced adversity.
“I actually went through a lot of failure, I had learning disabilities,” Owens said. “I remember being 13-years-old, having an algebra teacher tell me, because I was struggling with algebra that I would never do well in school.”
Little did that teacher know Owens would attend college on a full scholarship to The Juilliard School in New York City, one of the world leaders in performing arts education.
“Education is the difference between you being who you are and what you have the potential to be,” Owens said. “African Americans, we have thrived in the area of sports and entertainment for years. [But] where we get counted out and discounted, is when we don’t have education.”
In 2008, with goals to see the next generation succeed, Owens founded Don’t Miss A Beat, a non-profit organization committed to giving children the tools to grow in performing arts.
“The reason why I resonate with my kids is because the way that the world tries to look at them and predetermine their failure, they did the same thing with me, but I just happened to make it out,” Owens said. “Now I’m telling my kids here’s how to make it and I’m equipping them so not only are they successful, but they’re overly successful.”
As an educator, philanthropist, author and producer, Owens is clearing a path for others who remind him of himself. He says no matter where his award-winning talent takes him, there’s no denying his Jacksonville roots.
“This is where I’m from,” Owens said. “Juilliard is what I do and what I’ve evolved into. But I’m there so that I can pave the way for more kids and more people to evolve to get to places like that.”
Owens is the small ensemble director for The Julliard School, artist in residence for Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, visiting artist in residence for Lavilla School of the Arts and a guest lecturer around the globe.
Credit: Source link