Jazz It Up: The South Beach Jazz Festival

Samantha Elkins, News Editor

Jazz music floated through Lincoln Road and down to Miami Beach during the first weekend in January, attracting jazz enthusiasts and tourists alike to the sixth annual South Beach Jazz Festival, which showcased the musical talents of musicians with disabilities

Power Access – a non-profit that raises awareness and provides opportunities to those with disabilities – presented the Festival. Founder David New created Power Access to educate others about people living and working with disabilities. New regained his ability to walk and hear after becoming paralyzed from the waist down, and he continues to break down barriers for the disabled community.

At the SBJF, performances included many different styles of jazz music, including classic, Latin and New Orleans styles; almost all performances were free of charge. At least one person performing in each band had a disability. Many Grammy-award winning bands headlined the event, including the Blind Boys of Alabama, Aymée Nuviola and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. 

“In terms of musicians with disabilities, the music industry – as wonderful an industry as it is – has a tendency to be pretty inequitable in terms of the music that’s performed and the diversity of musicians that are performing it,” Miami Palmetto Senior High senior Daniel Solomon said. “Any opportunity to showcase musicians with disabilities from different backgrounds is very important. Especially in an area like Miami, when culture and music is such a part of who we are and what we do, it’s pretty important to be able to highlight musicians of different backgrounds.”

Solomon founded the Pinecrest City Music Project, an organization that aims to create holistic arts leaders both in and outside of the classroom. A partially blind musician himself, Solomon ensures that students at PCMP are taught all aspects of music, including who made it and their background. The curriculum was specifically designed to allow each student to play music that represented them and their community, echoing the inclusivity that SBJF emphasizes each year.

“Music connects people through something that is very different from a language. For music,  you can feel it… [With] language, you need to be able to understand the language in order to understand each other. Music is a language in which everyone can understand, without really understanding,” Palmetto Orchestra Director Ms. Angela Lin said. 

The SBJF has already announced the dates for next year’s festival, continuing their tradition to expand perspectives and enrich lives with jazz music.