Don’t Miss a Beat was founded in 2008 by Ulysses Owens Jr. and his family. Growing up in the Crystal Springs area of Jacksonville’s Westside, Ulysses was introduced to music early on. He started playing drums at just two years old and his mother, Gwendolyn, soon enrolled him in classical piano lessons. In high school, Ulysses attended the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, where he became part of the school’s inaugural jazz program and graduated with a full scholarship to The Juilliard School.
After graduating from Juilliard in 2006, Ulysses traveled the world as a jazz drummer, but his thoughts often turned to Jacksonville. Upon reading about Jacksonville’s high dropout rate and other youth problems. Ulysses and his family decided to act. “In other cultures, I saw so many arts programs for kids,” Ulysses says. “I thought we really needed something like this back home.”
The program began with the singular objective of helping suspended youths stay in school so they wouldn’t “miss a beat.” Since then, Don’t Miss a Beat programming has evolved to include the performing arts, academic enrichment and civic engagement as well as job skills training for parents.
In 2010, with help from City Councilman Warren Jones, the program was selected by the City of Jacksonville and JaxParks to be “in residence” at the J.S. Johnson Community Center’s Youth Room in Jacksonville. This great honor allowed Don’t Miss a Beat to provide programming for underserved youth all year long and enhanced the organization’s sustainability by providing it with a permanent home.