Dion Parson & 21st Century Band
Friday, August 13
Dion Parson is an educator, composer, and one of New York’s finest, GRAMMY-award-winning drummers. Born on June 11, 1967 on St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, Parson’s musical foundation ranges from classical, reggae, calypso, jazz, African, and pop music. While his first musical instrument was the trombone, at age 15 Parson discovered he had a greater interest in the drums. He received a grant from the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts to study at Interlochen Music Academy in Michigan and was later selected to represent the USVI as a drummer in the McDonald’s All-American High School Band. Parson later attended Rutgers University in New Jersey where he studied percussion with Keith Copeland and William Moersch. He received a BM in Music Education in 1990 and his Master’s in jazz performance in 2012. Parson also studied with master drummer Michael Carvin who remains his mentor.
After graduation, Parson moved to New York where he quickly became part of the jazz scene, playing with a wide variety of artists, including such greats as Milt Jackson, Monty Alexander, Jon Faddis, Geri Allen, Lee Konitz, Dianne Reeves, Wycliffe Gordon and Cyrus Chestnut. Parson has performed globally in Asia, Europe, Canada, the West Indies, Africa, and the Middle East. He has also recorded for several major labels, including Columbia, Sony, Gramavision, Arabesque, Blue Note, High Five, Verve, Enja, Koch Records, and Concord Records. His first record as a leader, 21st Century, was recorded on Tahmun Records with co-leader Ron Blake, and in 2001, he recorded his first solo effort People Music.
In 1998, together with Blake, Parson founded 21st Century Band, a jazz band featuring the rich musical traditions of jazz fused with the rhythms of his native US Virgin Islands. Under Parson’s leadership, 21st Century Band is paving the way for Caribbean Jazz, releasing three live recording at the prestigious Dizzy’s Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2010, 2012 and 2019 with special guests like Terell Stafford and Marcus Printup.
In June 2016, as an homage to their musical cultural heritage, they released the studio CD St. Thomas. In addition to his established presence on the jazz scene, Parson has also performed on Broadway with the musical Color Purple. As an educator, he has taught at several educational facilities, including Rutgers University, Harlem School of the Arts (NY), among others. Since February of 2005 Dion has been the drum/percussion instructor at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) Jazz for Teens program, Stevens Institute of Technology: Hoboken, New Jersey, USA, the Conservatory of Amsterdam and since 2012 as an Artist in Residence at the University of the Virgin Islands, where he conducts clinics, workshops, teach private lessons and theory classes, directs student ensembles and performs. Always passionate in giving back to his community, in 2009 Parson founded the program “Mentoring Through the Arts of Music”, under the auspices of United Jazz Foundation, of which he is President. United Jazz Foundation (UJF) is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to identify, educate, and mentor students who aspire to begin a career in music, as well as developing program curriculum (Pre-K through High School) which consists of activities and experiences through music with the intent to insure developmental changes in children within their cultural context as well as to create a safe environment in which the children of the US Virgin Islands can experience and learn about their own local heritage and aspects of life outside of their community, which inspires them to blossom and become more confident as they focus on the learning process and achieving their dreams.
The summer of 2017, his performing career and educational aspirations came together through the successful summer program “Caribbean Jazz Institute”, under the direction of fellow Virgin Islander Ron Blake, at the Snow Pond Center for the Arts in Sidney Maine and in 2019 Parson has been appointment as the Chair of the Communication, Art, Theatre and Music Department of the University of the Virgin Islands..
Dion Parson & 21st Century Band perform Friday, August 13