Reflecting the love that all children
have for performing arts activities and the rich and historical
musical culture of African American people, the Watoto Memphis Performing Arts Academy was formed.
The program uses a variety of Afro-centric
performing arts and literary styles, including blues, jazz,
gospel, Negro spiritual, contemporary Afro-centric movement,
and Black poetic composition and expression, to introduce
students to the historical exeriences of their ancestors.
Watoto program youth have their unique experience of singing,
dancing and performing their way through history, an approach
that improves their self image and teaches them to appreciate
their cultural heritage. Hundreds of children
have had their lives positively impacted by the Watoto programs.
FOUNDING // In
1987, native Memphian Donald O’Conner, musician/songwriter/producer,
founded the non profit Memphis Cultural Arts Enrichment Center
(MCAEC), umbrella to the Watoto Memphis Performing Arts Academy.
// Using the performing arts and history to improve
the academic and social skills of children and youth.
DOES MEMPHIS NEED THIS PROGRAM? // Students are taught
skills that will make them an “asset” to their
community rather than a “liability”. Emphasis
is placed on the development of self discipline, work ethics,
and focused attention. Through the Watoto program, the MCEAC
strives to create a community of learners and leaders in which
respect and concern for members of the whole community is
Established organization that has been in existence for the
past twenty-five years // Trained hundreds of urban and at-risk
youth // Enrolled students have gone to college or some other
post graduate studies program // High school graduates have
received full college scholarships //Participated in international
tours that included Italy, Mexico, and the Bahamas // Conducted
performances for the following: Bono of U2, Magic Johnson,
Dr. J, Essence Festival, The King & Queen of San Marino,
Congressman John Lewis, Lennox Lewis, and Dan Zanes of Playhouse
Disney // Created Watoto Memphis chapters in twelve
cities // Established partnership with the National Civil
Rights Museum // Debuted national tour of the production “
Love Everybody” in tribute to the life of Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr.
AND ENROLLMENT // The Watoto program presents three
general public concerts a year in which all students participate.
They are held during the months of December, May, and August.
Throughout the year smaller ensembles are available for private
and special performance bookings. The Watoto program has a
year round open enrollment
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