My pledge is to create a safe environment in which the children of St. Thomas, St John, and St. Croix can experience and learn about their own local heritage and other aspects of life outside of their community. And present alternatives created and shared by the community—teachers, students, parents, workers, professionals, and businesses—that will help children to blossom and become more confident as they focus on the learning process and achieving their dreams. —Dion Parson, 2009

University of the Virgin Islands

Chair of the Communication, Art, Theatre and Music Department of the University of the Virgin Islands.

Learn More

United Jazz Foundation

Dion Parson, President of United Jazz Foundation
Nonprofit Organization in New York, New York

United Jazz Foundation is a non-profit organization created by Nicole Parson and drummer/educator Dion Parson to provide music education and mentoring to underserved youth. Through its music education program, “Mentoring Through the Arts of Music,” the organization seeks to

  • Connect world cultures through music
  • Cultivate talented music students from within the local communities of various countries
  • Establish collaborations with the local education and performance institutions
  • Employ first-rate jazz musicians to mentor students and to help nurture inter-cultural conversations and exchanges

Mentoring Through the Arts of Music In 2009, drummer and native US Virgin Islander Dion Parson recognized the need to create an environment on the US Virgin Islands where students could grow creatively and explore music of all genres. In collaboration with United Jazz, he created and established “Mentoring Through the Arts of Music,” an initiative that is strongly committed to elevating the music education of disadvantaged students who traditionally do not have access to more advanced means of education or private lessons.

Sanctioned by the Government of the US Virgin Islands, the program works with the schools within each community to ensure that participating students have access to the tools they need to build successful careers in music and provides students with opportunities to engage with professional musicians both in the classroom and on the stage. These musicians also serve as mentors to students—from elementary school through college—helping them to understand their own local musical traditions, while introducing them to, or broadening, the concepts of all music, including the American musical heritage, jazz.

Learn More

VI Jazz Collective

Dion Parson, Director of the VI Jazz Collective

With music director Dion Parson, trumpeter Keshawn Hardy, saxophonist Sherwin Williams, pianist Jairay Petty, bassist Sam Smith, drummer Josh Farrell, and steel pannist Eljhaie Brathwaite.

Under the direction of the great Dion Parson, the VI Jazz Collective is a group of extremely talented young musicians who showcase the musical heritage of the U.S. Virgin Islands within the harmonic structure of jazz. Starting as members of the VI Youth Ensemble, this group of alumni has been developing since 2014, and they’re now representing the U.S. Virgin Islands both nationally and internationally as part of the “Made in the VI” campaign. The band features trumpeter Keshawn Hardy, saxophonist Sherwin Williams, pianist Jairay Petty, bassist Uriel Rogers, drummer Joshua Farrell, and Eljhahe Brathwaite on the quintessential steel pan. Parson’s 21st Century Band, featured earlier this week, is an annual highlight at Dizzy’s Club, and tonight’s performance is a way to hear even more uplifting music from the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Learn More

VI Youth Ensemble

Dion Parson, Director of the VI Youth Ensemble

The VI Youth Ensemble is a performance-based initiative that challenges music students to become better students and prepares them for professional careers.

VI YOUTH ENSEMBLE (VIYE) is a performance-based initiative that challenges music students to enhance their creativity, sharpen their intellect, and expand their knowledge and vision of the world. Launched in 2014 under the auspices of United Jazz Foundation's Mentoring Through the Arts of Music, the program is primarily for students across the USVI who have exhibited a high level of musical talent. Together with progressive academic instruction, activities, and mentorship, the VI Youth Ensemble helps students focus on learning as they develop their sense of pride and self-worth and hone their decision-making skills through performance. Each year, students enrolled in USVI high schools audition to become part of the ensemble. The ensemble is directed by drummer Dion Parson with assistance from Band Director Dionne Donadelle and Junior Assistant, Tabari Lake.

Learn More

Caribbean Jazz Institute

Snow Pond Center for the Arts in Sidney Maine

Dion Parson, Co-Founder of the Caribbean Jazz Institute

The Caribbean Jazz Institute provides college, graduate/postgrad—level jazz instrumentalists with an intensive 10-day program of study led by international artists Ron Blake and members of Dion Parson & the 21st Century Band.

Program participants focus on small ensemble performance, the introduction of rhythms of the Caribbean through the adaptation of original and standard jazz repertoire as a vehicle for improvisation, creative practice techniques, ear training, theory, & listening sessions.

Master classes are provided daily on the fundamentals of jazz improvisation, along with small ensembles coached by the faculty, and performances through the course of the camp.

Learn More