AUSTIN (KXAN) — Tucked away in a small studio space off I-35 is Anthropos Arts, a nonprofit that has provided musical training and mentorship to thousands of local students from lower-income backgrounds. Now, the organization is celebrating the latest milestone in its tenure, with a 25th anniversary showcase planned for May 7.
Dylan Jones, executive director of Anthropos Arts, told KXAN the inspiration for the nonprofit came through the very same musical mentorship he received as a teenager. He credited his bass teacher, Dwayne Heggar, with planting the seed that has since led to Anthropos Arts’ musical ecosystem.
“I was at a very critical point in my life and was going off a really bad path, and I credit him with not just changing my life, but saving it, ultimately,” he said. “Every kid needs that in their life: That adult, professional non-authority figure to be able to guide and encourage and inspire, and most importantly, listen.”
Anthropos Arts works with students from 16 different schools in the region, providing free and individualized, instrument-specific music lessons to them while also offering them opportunities to perform in front of larger crowds. That one-on-one attention and public exposure is critical, Jones said, to building up both students’ skillsets and confidence in their talents.
“We like to empower them to be themselves,” he said. “And also, to accept them when they come in — that it’s okay to be exactly who you are, no matter who you are, where you come from, this is a place that’s safe for you to come to.”
As Anthropos Arts’ crosses this milestone, Jones said he is still aiming to help make Austin’s music scene a more inclusive space for people from diverse and lower-income backgrounds. He said his hope is that more city and local partners get involved with the nonprofit to continue knocking down economic barriers and cultural stereotypes that can make entering the local music scene more challenging.
“I love to be an advocate for our kids because I’ve been working with the community for 25 years. I’ve met the most amazing human beings and the smartest kids,” he said. “They’re just one step away, or they’re just on the edge of falling through some crack, and when they don’t they go on and get college degrees and become professionals and make more money than their parents did, and they break that cycle of poverty.”
With thousands of students who’ve passed through Anthropos Arts, Jones said he’s seen countless stories of students who’ve been able to build up their own versions of success, using the tools learned through music. Some students became the first in their families to go to college, earning a full ride scholarship. Others have now earned music degrees and launched their own music schools.
Some, he said, even met their future spouses through Anthropos Arts.
The 25th anniversary showcase will feature both current and former Anthropos Arts alumni performing on the same stage, with a wide range of genres and solos planned. The beauty of music, Jones said, is the way it creates culture and commonality for people coming from various backgrounds and perspectives who are inspired by the same rhythms and beats.
“So much of music in the real world is oral tradition. It’s passed on. It’s not all on paper,” he said. “And it’s not all one specific genre of music — it’s from all over the world. It’s about listening and it’s about feel and it’s about what the teacher is willing to impart onto their student, and we consider that a gift.”
Anthropos Arts’ 25th anniversary showcase will be held at Antone’s from 4-7 p.m. May 7, located at 305 E. 5th St., Austin. More information on Anthropos Arts, including donation and volunteering opportunities, is available online.