Grammy Award-winning, Virgin Islands native Dion Parson, leader of the world renowned 21st Century Band, has been selected as artist-in-residence in the Music Area of the University of the Virgin Islands.
Parson, a drummer who has recorded for major record labels including Columbia, Sony and Blue Note, will offer two, hour-long, private lessons per week. The private lessons are for registered UVI percussion students, members of the UVI Jazz Band, and students in the Brass and Percussion Pedagogy class for Music Education majors. As artist-in-residence, Parson will teach at UVI one week per month. Parson’s UVI lessons began at the start of the Fall 2012 semester, the week of August 20.
He says the private lessons are intended to be “intense,” providing professional expertise and hands-on training.
Parson’s UVI lessons are an extension of his outreach commitment to the Virgin Islands community. Since 2009 Parson has been developing, implementing and directing a program called “Mentoring through the Art of Music,” which is sponsored by the Virgin Islands Lottery and the West Indian Company (WICO) in conjunction with the V.I. Department of Education on St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John.
UVI President Dr. David Hall announced Parson’s selection as artist-in-residence during UVI’s Fall 2012 Convocation address, to resounding applause.
“I am personally thrilled to be able to offer the students at UVI an opportunity to learn from Dion Parson – who represents the top tier of professional musicianship,” Dr. Hall said. “This one-on-one experience will remain in their hearts and minds for years to come.”
Born on St. Thomas, Parson began his musical journey playing the trombone. At the age of 15 he began playing drums and was awarded a grant from Virgin Islands Council on the Arts to study at Interlochen Music Academy in Michigan. Upon returning home, Parson was selected to be the VI representative in the McDonald’s All-American High School Band, to play drums. He later attended Rutgers University in New Jersey, where he studied percussion with Keith Copeland and William Moersch, receiving a bachelor's degree in Music Education in 1990.
After graduating from Rutgers, Parson moved to New York, where he quickly became part of the jazz scene. He played with such greats as the late Milt Jackson, Jon Faddis, Terence Blanchard, David Sanchez, Lee Konitz, Ron Blake, Babatunde Olatunji, Baaba Maal, Dianne Reeves, Bill Saxton, and many more. His association with these musicians has taken him all over the world.
Parson began his teaching career at Rutgers University. He has also conducted classes and workshops at Cheyney University in Pennsylvania,Virgin Islands Council on the Arts Jazz Exchange Workshops, North Carolina University and the Conservatory of Amsterdam, to name a few.
In 1998, Parson and Ron Blake co-founded 21st Century Band, which Parson leads.
For further information on the UVI Music Area and registering to attend music classes at UVI, please contact the UVI Office of Admissions at 693-1160.