Jazz concerts in Fort Lauderdale to honor a beloved veteran music teacher

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida. – Jazzmen will pay tribute to Christopher Dorsey with concerts on Saturday and Sunday in Fort Lauderdale.

Dorsey is retiring after 36 years teaching music at public schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. He taught at Little River Elementary in Miami. He was at Homestead Middle School after Hurricane Andrew.

After teaching at American Senior High School in Hialeah and Miami Northwestern Senior High in Liberty City, Dorsey spent his last 18 years directing the Dillard Center for the Arts Jazz Ensemble in Fort Lauderdale.

“It was a brand new setup and new instruments,” Dorsey, 62, said. “That’s what drew me to Dillard, to be honest with you.”

Dorsey founded the program in 2004. His award-winning jazz ensemble is nationally recognized as a fierce competitor. Many of its students have graduated to continue their studies at the Juilliard School and other prestigious conservatories across the country.

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“[Mr. Dorsey] makes them see the best in themselves. It helps to create self-esteem. He helps build character,” said Casandra Robinson, principal of Dillard High School, adding that there is a long list of professional musicians thanks to him.

Dorsey was born and raised in Chicago. He played the tuba as a teenager and the trombone professionally before beginning to teach. He earned a master’s degree in music education from the University of Florida in 1986.

“I was able to teach life skills using music as a medium to do that,” Dorsey said.

His students are stars of the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band competition and festival in New York. Their extraordinary story inspired “Sweet Dillard”, a film presented at the Miami Film Festival.

Ann Florvil, a sophomore at Dillard High School, said she appreciated Dorsey’s honesty and high expectations.

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“He’ll tell you exactly how it is; tell you if you need to improve,” Ann said.

There will be a concert in his honor at 6 p.m. at the ArtServe, 350 E Sunrise Blvd. His students plan to perform at the “Sweet Dillard Jazz” concert at 5 p.m. on Sunday at 2501 NW 11th St. Both concerts in Fort Lauderdale will help fund the Christopher Dorsey Scholarship Fund.

“I think I’ll miss dealing with my students the most,” Dorsey said, adding, “Sometimes as teachers it can feel like we’re not making a difference, but you are making a difference.”

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