San Diego, CA — Heartbeat Music & Performing Arts Academy is not just a non-profit organization to Founder & Executive Director, Tyra Hawthorne; it is a way of life to many of the inner-city youth in Southeast San Diego. Incorporated in 2014, Ms. Hawthorne has had her share of ups and downs with her non-profit.
She comments, “I took on a sector in this non-profit world that is extremely hard to get support for. We are losing funding for Performing Arts programs in our inner-city schools every day, so when I created Heartbeat it was to create the beginning of a solution to this problem.”
Like many non-profit organizations that do not receive enough support to sustain, in 2016, Heartbeat Music & Performing Arts Academy was on the verge of closing its doors. She continues, “No matter what I did it was never enough. I work full time, so there was never a need for me to take a salary from the organization. I’ve always wanted the tuition and every donation to go back into the organization for the kids. But even with the low tuition rates, it was still unaffordable to many families. I struggled having families disenroll because they could no longer afford the tuition, so a lot of times families were there tuition free.”
Uncertain about the direction that Heartbeat Music & Performing Arts Academy was going in, Ms. Hawthorne did the unthinkable to save not just her Academy, but the students who had been a part of her program for years. Many of the students were near completion of high school and would need her assistance to move forward with their collegiate marching band auditions.
She recalls, “One day I came home, and I told my mother I was ready to give up. I was tired, and I didn’t want to live this life anymore. I’m a college graduate; I have a good career. But somehow, I was always stressed and financially strained because I gave so much of my own money and time to keep the Academy open. My mother asked me if I’d felt like I’d done everything to keep the doors open. In my mind, I had, but to her I had not. She suggested I give up my apartment and live at the Academy until it became self-sufficient. To be honest I did not want to do it, but if I hadn’t there was a great chance that the Academy would have closed.”
Due to Ms. Hawthorne’s commitment, Heartbeat Music & Performing Arts Academy has upwards momentum. What was once a drumline program has now grown into a full marching band for youth ages 9 and up. It is now the home for over 30 young musicians and dancers. Over the past four years the students have appeared in multiple commercials, TV shows, music videos as well as live theatre such as The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, directed by Debbie Allen. Additionally, the marching band just returned home from their second appearance in the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade in Chicago, IL. “No matter what I was going through, I would never allow their success to stop.”
In July of 2019, Ms. Hawthorne relocated the Academy from a 3,500 square foot building to an 8,000 square foot building where she has now built a ‘Preschool 4 The Arts Program’. The program utilizes music and dance to help prepare students for Kindergarten. In addition to the move this summer, Ms. Hawthorne also hosted one of the largest Historically Black College and University themed marching band camps on the West Coast, attracting over 100 youth between the ages of 4 to 14.
“It was easier for me to just give up, but for two years, I made a decision to live uncomfortable and out of my norm. I am still in the struggle. Running a non-profit you’re never out of it. But now I look at my struggle as the catalyst. The sacrifice I made 3 years ago moved me one step closer to having an organization that will hopefully last for years enabling me and music to have a lasting impact on the next generation. The sacrifice was worth it. I look at the students that the Academy has helped who are now in college marching with Jackson State University and Clark Atlanta University. I also look at my current students, the possibilities for them are endless. Music and Dance Education is magic to me. It has a way of changing a kid’s whole world.”
To learn more about Heartbeat Music & Performing Academy, visit www.hbmpaa.com
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