The African American Arts and Heritage Academy _ founded by his father, Norman, 26 years ago_ has given Jordan and hundreds of other high-school aged students a glimpse into what their futures could look like.
He didn’t end up choosing the arts in the classes he took at the academy, held for the last eight years at WVU, but he was able to learn about himself and what he loved to do. The hip-hop artist, who performs throughout the region, got his start performing at the academy’s talent show held at the end of the week. (This year, the show will be from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday July 10 at the National Resource Center for Coal and Energy t 385 Evansdale Drive in Morgantown.)
“It’s been helping groom a lot of young artists throughout our state,” he said of the academy. “It’s also helped me out a lot as an artist in my own performance.”
“As an artist, it’s the first place I learned to perform. As far as building my craft, it gave me a lot of examples to work with.”
Jordan went on to be a camp counselor and will be teaching hip-hop song writing at this year’s academy held from July 5-10 for approximately 50 students aged 13 to 18.
The camp, which mainly draws students from the area around Morgantown, is a meeting place for students who are at various phases in deciding what they want to be when they grow up. Some will find their passion at the academy. Others already know what they want and will learn the skills to further their goals. Some will choose science over art but be enriched by what they experience, developing personal life skills that help them to interact with others and present themselves well.
He calls it building “better people not just better workers.”
“The whole camp is based on you getting comfortable with your craft and being able to take your craft to the rest of the world,” Jordan said.
Jordan says the academy is particularly valuable to the area because he hasn’t found many similar opportunities in the state for kids to stretch their artistic muscles.
John Harper, whose performance name is Johnny Harmonic, got to see how the academy helps students firsthand as a fine arts student at WVU. He now lives in California working as a hip-hop artist and television and film performer.
He has taught theater classes at the academy and was invited to teach acting again this year.
“This camp is very useful for the youth, especially in this region because there’s not too many tools to display your arts and master your craft,” Harper said.
He calls the talent show at the end of the academy “one of the most amazing shows that goes on in Morgantown,” which is foreshadowed at the beginning of the academy by the showing of the film “Fame” that follows the ambitions of students at the former High School of Performing Arts in New York City.
The academy was originally a state-run organization called Camp Washington Carver, but became private in 1993, Norman Jordan said. In 2002, the academy, which is non-profit and relies solely on grants and donations, moved to West Virginia University, which enhanced the academy’s educational mission. Volunteers from throughout the University assist in operating the camp.
“I think by us just having our sessions on a college campus like WVU it takes out so much of the mystique of going to college,” he said.
Jacqueline Dooley, a volunteer with the academy and a program coordinator for WVU’s Student Organizations Services, said her daughter went to the academy and is now in the music therapy program at a music conservatory.
While the academy is open to students of diverse backgrounds, it is mostly made up of African Americans, she said.
Along with teaching dance, theater, visual arts, arts technology such as audio recording, vocal and instrumental music, Swahili, and creative writing, this year the academy will have a workshop on steel drums and a segment on how science, technology, engineering and math relate to art taught by WVU math professor Michael Mays.
Once the week is over, academy students will perform around the state throughout the year.
By Diana Mazzella
WVU News and Information
CONTACT: Eric Jordan, 304-685-4059 or Jacqueline Dooley at 304-657-1801
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