Ernest Dawkins Counters Local Violence with Music

Living in the middle of Englewood, a neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side better known for crime than creativity, alto saxophonist Ernest Dawkins is attempting to lure locals to music and away from gun violence. Supported by the MacArthur Foundation, his non-profit Live the Spirit Residency oversees a masters’ program for talented players, organizes informal drum circles for youngsters and seniors, and invites the entire city in the annual Englewood Jazz Festival, now 20 years old, explains the saxophonist/bandleader to The Chicago Tribune’s Annie Sweeny. While none of the program’s graduates have so far joined Dawkins in his most high-profile gigs, such as with percussionist Kahil El’Zabar’s Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, or in his own New Horizons Ensemble, founded with the late trumpeter Ameen Muhammad, a few have now gone on to become professional musicians.