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Our History

MISSION and VISION

 

United Jazz Foundation (UJF) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to elevating the aspirations and economic conditions of underserved youth on the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) through music literacy, performance, and mentorship.

Located on the US Virgin Islands and guided by the awareness of the positive impact of community-based, targeted educational activity and the premise of self-empowerment, UJF administers music education programs that incorporate cultural heritage and community-building and helps provide a safe, progressive, and encouraging atmosphere in which pre-k students through college graduates can learn.

Founders Dion Parson and Nicole Parson both hold firmly to the belief that to empower children and adults, we must provide them with the essential tools they need to help navigate and improve their individual lives and the community. UJF’s music education programs provide the necessary knowledge and skills students need to compete in today’s professional world and to become more confident and responsible individuals who ultimately benefit the USVI community by giving back and/or supporting education as well as the arts and culture of the USVI.​

 

THE BEGINNING

 

​Founded in 2013, United Jazz Foundation originated as Mentoring Through the Arts of Music (MTAM), a personal initiative by co-founder and US Virgin Islander Dion Parson. A drummer, composer, and educator, Dion was born and grew up in St. Thomas, where he was fortunate to be around adults that taught him how to rope in his wild energy and use it to achieve his dreams.

“There was no coddling and no making excuses. Everything I achieved, I gained through hard work, persistence, and the help of the adults who took me under their wings. My experiences have taught me that with the support of your community, the acknowledgment of your own deep-seated passions, and the application of inner strength, you can achieve anything.” – Dion Parson

As an adult, Dion saw that there were many teens and pre-teens on the USVI who needed a similar support system. This awareness prompted him to pledge that he would do as much as he could to ensure that these teenagers were able to find the support they needed…and so Mentoring Through the Arts of Music was conceived. The initiative began with minute steps—a few private conversations with young teenagers trying to find themselves, bits and pieces of musical coaching, a few impromptu jam sessions after a performance, and a great desire to give back to the community.​