Banks, Bridgewater and Lewis Fine Arts Academy (BBL) is a musical organization that seeks to increase the number of minority students, particularly African Americans, that participate in band programs in local public schools. BBL has conducted a series of musical instrument instructional lessons at Salem Baptist Church in Champaign, Illinois. The summer camps culminate in recitals showcasing the students’ accomplishments. The band also performs at events such as the annual Jetty Rhodes Day celebratory event in King Park that is sponsored by the Urbana Park District and Salem Baptist Church. Over 500 residents from the local community have participated in events sponsored BBL. The premier performing group of BBL is named the "Mo Betta' Band."
History of Mo'Betta Music
In 2005, the Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign set out to develop an initiative that would prepare students to become civic minded global leaders. To accomplish that mission the Civic Commitment Task Force was formed through a collective of representatives from various colleges and departments across campus. Professor William Patterson, Associate Director of the African American Cultural Center at the University of Illinois began examining the program structure at the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center (BNAACC) and learned many African American students and student groups use the center as a hub to network on campus, but to also interact and engage with projects relative to social development in the African American community.
In the spring of 2007, Nathaniel Banks, then Director of BNAACC responded to a Request for Proposals from the Civic Commitment Task Force with the idea to conduct fine arts and radio broadcast outreach to marginalized elementary and high school aged children from the African American Community.
As a result of the success of the initial project and demand from the local African American community, the African American Cultural Center expanded the project into a year round program called Mo Betta’Music. “Mo Betta Music” has become the African American Cultural Center’s indigenously spirited multi-genre music initiative that uses music and performance culture to engage young people academically and socially to do the right thing in their communities.
Beginning on September 19, 2009, the center supports young people going back to school with an educationally focused inspiration event titled “Mo Betta’ Music: Showcase of the Rising Stars.”
This event has included:
- A parade dubbed the “March to Achieve”
- “Legacy that you Live” Showcase stage
- Awards for public school students
- Battle of the high school bands
The goal of BBL is to develop an indigenous infrastructure that allows the program to function as part of a larger civic engagement initiative that partners with schools, school districts, park districts, churches, and other civic organizations throughout the state to get more underrepresented students involved in school band and to improve their academic performance and social responsibility on a local, state, national, and international level. Likewise, BBL also seek to encourage collegiate student organizations to be more civically involved in communities that need their presence.
BBL gives instruction for beginner through advanced students in the following musical arts:
- Brass: trumpets, trombones
- Reeds: clarinets, saxophones
- Percussion: African instruments, trap set
- Keyboards: piano
- Vocal expression
The Mo' Betta instructors and their instruments are:
- Nathaniel Banks: Brass, camp coordinator (2005-current)
- Ron Bridgewater: Reeds, alto and tenor sax, flute (2005-current)
- Tito Carrillo: brass, Latin Jazz
- Deborah Banks: Reeds, clarinet (2005-current, camps)
- Robert Lewis: Percussion, trap set (2005 - current)
- Abby Heras, keyboard, guitar (2010-current)
- Jay Sawyer, percussion
- Kevin Turner, rhythm section, guitar
- Todd Rent, keyboard
- Jackline Madegwa, voice
Summer Camp 2012
BBL Jazz, Gospel and Popular Music Summer Camp 2012 takes place June 4-9 (advanced students grades 8-12) and June 11-16 (beginning students grades 5-8).
- For daily camp curriculum see http://www.mobettamusic.org/content/summer-camp-2012-itinerary
- For online registration and scholarship information see http://www.mobettamusic.org/content/summer-camp-registration-0