Jazz concerts in Fort Lauderdale to honor beloved veteran music teacher

Jazz players will honor Christopher Dorsey with concerts on Saturday and Sunday in Fort Lauderdale.

Dorsey is retiring after 36 years of teaching music at public schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. He taught at Little River Elementary in Miami. He was at Homestead Middle School after Hurricane Andrew.

After teaching at American Senior High School in Hialeah and Miami Northwestern Senior High in Liberty City, Dorsey spent his last 18 years running the Dillard Center for the Arts Jazz Ensemble in Fort Lauderdale.

“It was a brand new facility and new instruments,” Dorsey, 62, said. “That’s what drew me to Dillard, to be honest with you.”

Dorsey founded the program in 2004. His award-winning Jazz Ensemble is recognized nationwide as a fierce competitor. Many of his students have graduated to continue their education at The Juilliard School and other prestigious conservatories around the country.

“[Mr. Dorsey] makes them see the best in themselves. He helps create self-esteem. He helps to create character,” said Casandra Robinson, Dillard High School’s principal, adding there is a long list of professional musicians because of him.

Dorsey was born and raised in Chicago. He played the tuba as a teen and the trombone professionally before he started teaching. He earned a master’s degree in music education from the University of Florida in 1986.

“I was able to teach life skills by using music as a vehicle to do it,” Dorsey said.

His students are stars at the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival in New York City. Their extraordinary story inspired “Sweet Dillard,” a film shown at the Miami Film Festival.

Ann Florvil, a sophomore at Dillard High School, said she appreciates Dorsey’s honesty and high expectations.

“He’ll tell you exactly how it is; tell you if you need to get better,” Ann said.

There will be a concert in his honor at 6 p.m., at the ArtServe, at 350 E Sunrise Blvd. His students plan to perform at the “Sweet Dillard Jazz” concert at 5 p.m. on Sunday at 2501 NW 11th St. Both concerts in Fort Lauderdale will help fund the Christopher Dorsey Scholarship Fund.

“I think I’ll miss dealing with my students the most,” Dorsey said adding, “Sometimes as a teacher, we might feel that we don’t make a difference but you do make a difference.”

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