JAM NY Celebrates 25 Years of Music Education

Twenty-five years of music education from Joe’s Academy of Music in St. Albans was celebrated at the illustrious Carnegie Hall. This article was featured in Queen's Chronicle on Nov. 22, 2023.

This article was written by Naeisha Rose, Associate Editor at Queen's Chronicle on Nov 22, 2023. Click here to read the full article.

Twenty-five years of music education from Joe’s Academy of Music in St. Albans was celebrated at the illustrious Carnegie Hall, last Saturday.

Mayor Adams, Borough President Donovan Richards, state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Simone Meeks, who was there on behalf of her husband, U.S. Rep. Greg Meeks (D-Jamaica), presented citations to the school on Nov. 18. Students of the institution also received a certificate from City Councilwoman Nantasha Williams (D-St. Albans) and Paula Washington Parks, a member of the nonprofit the Greater Queens Chapter of the Links, emceed the event, Jolander Headley, co-founder and CEO of the music school, told the Chronicle.

The first half of the program was a student recital where students sang, and played piano, drums, violins, violas and a cello, saidHeadley, who recalled at least 25 students performing during the festivities.

The second half of the program was a faculty and friends concert, which included African dance, and two students were also featured along with the dance director and drummer.

There were also instrumental and voice performances, along with music from the school’s Nebulous String Quartet and the Riffz Jazz Band.

“That band is led by one of our directors, Akeem Headley,” Headley added. “It was really great to have them perform at the Carnegie Hall stage.”

The Alliance Tabernacle Choir from Brooklyn, which includes members who attend the school, also performed at the venue’s Weill Recital Hall.

“That was a treat as well,” Headley said. “It was a delight to have the choir.”

Headley, an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago, said she became passionate about music when she was 5 years old, but never imagined that she would be running her own academy with her family. Her husband, Grantley Headley, is the COO, and her sons, Kareem and Akeem, help her manage the business as well as teach students at the school, which is located at 114-04 Farmers Blvd.

“I never thought that learning to play the piano would develop into a business idea,” Headley said. “It has really grown to become a beacon music academy around the Queens area.”

Headley’s family moved to the United States in the 1980s and she would go on to co-found the school more than a decade later in 1998.

“When we came to the U.S., having a music school, a music academy, was not on my mind. It was not a priority,” said Headley, who worked in the corporate world for 26 years. Despite this, she started teaching music lessons with three students at her home in Springfield Gardens on the side. She also took continuing education lessons in music at Juilliard and Berklee. “Twenty-five years later, we have ... been able to serve over 10,000 families who have crossed our paths over the years.”

The academy also has satellite offices in schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, as well as Malverne and Lynbrook in Long Island.

The academy teaches students as young as 18 months all instruments, voice and dance, Headley said.

The music school has a toddler program that stops around ages 5 or 6. Then, students can matriculate into private lessons at the academy.

“The program for the toddlers is a group class and everything else is private, with focused individual attention. We teach what the student wants to learn, so it’s different genres across the board,” said Headley. “We do prepare students for auditions for higher education in the arts. They are going to be able to read the music, write the music and play the instruments.”

Along with voice, drums, piano and strings, teachers also instruct kids how to play wind and brass instruments. In the spring, the students perform in gospel recitals, and classical, jazz, contemporary and R&B shows in the summer. An upcoming recital will include holiday music on Dec. 17 at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, which is located at 153-10 Jamaica Ave.

Ballet, modern, tap, hip-hop, jazz, African, and Caribbean fusion are some of the highlights of the dance instruction. “Occasionally, we do salsa and Latino context. We also have a creative movement class for the babies ... which introduces them to the vocabulary of dance.”

Headley takes great pride in the school’s diversity, which has included a student body of people from the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia and other regions of the world.

“We also have different staff ... my only regret is that I did not document every single nationality ... we have that multicultural niche that has represented the school. I also think that reflects Queens as a borough.”

Her other pride and joy is her family. As she takes more of a backseat in a more guidance role, she sees her sons taking on more responsibility at the school as her legacy.

“I’m sitting back now, I have two grandchildren,” Headley said. “My granddaughter is already in the dance academy. She is developing as a little musician in her own right ... I sit back and say, ‘this was not just a really good idea, but a divine deposit.’”

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