Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Disney Dreamer Spreads Healing Through His Music and Works with R&B Singer Ne-Yo

Disney Dreamer Anthony Juba.

*Disney Dreamer Anthony Juba wants to make the world a better place after experiencing the tragic loss of his young nephew.

Anthony is determined to spread love, joy, and healing.  While he is still young and full of hopeful ideals that are untainted by the cynicism of this world, Anthony created a non-profit to perform informal music therapy for seniors with dementia to help recall memory and emotions.

As a recent graduate of Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Florida and currently a college freshman, Anthony is a singer, songwriter, pianist, and performer. He is keenly aware of his musical and altruistic gifts and he knows exactly how he wants to use them to positively affect the lives of others.

EURweb.com had a chance to speak to Anthony to discuss the lessons he learned at Disney Dreamers Academy and what the future lays ahead for him.

How would you describe yourself?

I was raised by my mom and step-dad; both instilled in me the importance of being the best me so that I can be my best when serving others. I’ve always had two passions and that is music and helping others. I’m an aspiring singer, musician, songwriter, pianist, composer, producer and humanitarian. My artistry isn’t simply to entertain, but to inspire, challenge, empower and make a profound impact on many of the societal, educational and health issues plaguing our world.  While I’m a classically trained baritone, my music background crosses a broad range of styles including jazz, folk, gospel, pop, and R&B, which is my artistry emphasis.  I have an extensive performing arts background and was selected to my state’s highest honors choirs for six consecutive years with several featured solos. I’ve also participated in several Master Classes including the Boston Conservatory.  However, one of my highest achievements was my selection to perform at Carnegie Hall as part of their International Honors Choir. Over 17,000 vocalists auditioned for three choirs representing approximately 300 vocalists in each.

I composed my very first choral piece a year ago earning first place districtwide and second place statewide and was also the honor student conductor at my school. I’ve held many leadership roles throughout my middle and high school years and was selected as the 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian by my school for outstanding character and service.

You are now a college freshman and you were an honor student at Dr. Phillips High School.  What motivated you to maintain high grades?

Determination, hard work, and sacrifice, I graduated with honors, a 4.2-grade point average this past May and closing out an incredible chapter of my life.  My parents demonstrated every day what it means to work hard and strive for excellence, it was a normal part of my environment. My mom told me at a very young age to be limitless and unapologetically brilliant when it comes to my life, my gifts, my dreams and the positive mark I will make in this world.  She said rather than letting the world change me, be a positive world-changer and this has driven me ever since.

Failure is not an option for me so anything I do, I give it all of me and then some. I consider my biggest competitor to be myself, and I will always be an apprentice and I actually think that s cool because it pushes me to keep moving forward learning and growing. I’ve always been looked upon by my peers and adult figures as a leader.  No matter where I am or what I’m doing people are always observing me and so I am always on top of my game not only for myself but for my peers. This form of observation is sort of like a blessing for me because it also provides me with the exposure I need to fulfill my destiny. Education is the one thing no one can take away from you so it’s important that I excel.

Tell me more about your foundation One Beat Away and describe the impact it’s had with seniors living with dementia.

Alongside my artistry is One Beat Away Inc. my non-profit of which I had the honor of presenting at the Dreamers Academy.  One Beat Away is currently working to train and place high school students through post-secondary school with a music background and/or love for music to work in memory care units at senior living centers. Students utilize informal music therapy to help seniors battling dementia with emotion and memory recall. Students also simply interact with seniors by coloring with them or painting their nails, which is also very important because I’ve observed that they’re also very lonely. I’ve been implementing this model for over five years after my sister unexpectedly lost her son just weeks after his first birthday. Life became a very dark place for me.  However, I was able to channel that darkness into something so beautiful, impactful and transformational that my nephew’s passing has now become his legacy.  I also donate prayer blankets, generate awareness and financial support for dementia research and I’m working to provide financial resources for arts/music programs in schools in underserved/underrepresented areas.

Music therapy isn’t a cure for dementia but at a minimum, has been shown to stimulate parts of the brain, help with reducing anxiety, improves social, emotional and cognitive skills and can help to decrease behavioral problems in seniors.  I’ve had many experiences with patients where in the beginning they were very agitated or didn’t know where they were and once I began playing and singing familiar songs to them, they began to calm down, smile, clap along, cry and best of all singalong, by actually reciting correct words.  If the work we do at the least brings about these types of positive emotional changes in seniors, then it’s beyond worth it for me.  One BEAT Away brings them happiness, comfort, joy, and quality spent time.

While music is ingrained in me, it isn’t just about me, but rather what comes from me. My music and artistry must enlighten lives, challenge minds, captivate hearts and transcend humanity to a better and brighter place. Before participating in the academy, I was just a kid who wanted to use my artistry to help dementia patients in my area, but the academy helped me to see it as so much more.  One Beat Away is now looking to expand throughout the state, nationally and eventually internationally.  It’s about dreaming big and I’m so thankful to Disney for helping me with my vision.  My loftier goal is to eventually create my One BEAT Away International Music Festival, it will be an annual music festival featuring prominent entertainers, philanthropists, activists, public officials and corporations who possess the same vision of improving our world one beat at a time. Proceeds will support a cure for dementia, support performing arts programs for low-income students, and highlight one global crisis each year with funds to support it.  Lastly, the festival will select one upcoming, aspiring artist to perform at the festival.  The selection will be based not only on their artistic capabilities but on their ability to demonstrate how they’re using their artistry to improve our world. I have a village and they saw something inspiring in me and that vision no matter how big or small is helping me secure my dreams. I always want to be able to pay it forward on multiple levels.

You are a singer, songwriter, and pianist, where can we listen to some of your music?

I’m in the process of having several of my pieces copyrighted and so I haven’t published them as of yet.  I do have a few covers on my Instagram page @Anthony.juba to hear a few of my original pieces.

How did you develop an interest in music?

My mom and step-dad saturated me in music from day one and quickly saw my music qualities as early as a toddler. I have pictures of where they purchased a toy keyboard with a microphone for me for my second birthday.  My parents exposed me to all genres of music, classical, pop, R&B, rock and world music.  Music has always been an intricate part of my life. I began singing on my church praise team with my mom and playing the piano when I was seven-years-old. Shortly after, I was performing throughout my community.  My parents made many sacrifices to place me in schools that had the best music programs so that I could be where I am now, I owe it all to them.

What inspires you when you are writing a song?

Life inspires me, hope, confinement, joy, pain, struggles, love, history and our world; these are but a few of life’s attributes that inspire my music. I’m so connected with the well-being of others that when I witness or experience any of these it becomes relatively easy for me to express myself. I love all forms of music and my writing ranges from classical pieces to R&B.  I love that I can create such diverse pieces because it makes my musical journey more intriguing and hopefully inspiring.

You were awarded the Dreamer of the Year Award at Disney Dreamers Academy commencement ceremony and you also received the Ne-Yo Entertainment Award. You were overcome with emotions when you were given these awards, tell me what you were feeling and thinking during that moment.

Anthony Juba-Richardson from Winter Garden, Fla. received the Dreamer of the Year Award at Disney Dreamers Academy commencement at Walt Disney World Resort on Sunday, March 24, 2019.  (Todd Anderson, photographer)

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Anthony Juba-Richardson from Winter Garden, Fla. and Mary Yeboah from College Park, Ga. received the Ne-Yo Entertainment Award during the commencement of the 12th annual Disney Dreamers Academy on Sunday, March 24, 2019, at Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.  (Gregg Newton, photographer)

Just before I arrived at the academy, my parents gifted me two stone necklaces with the words expect the unseen and follow your dreams. They said, “Son, just go in there being yourself and everything will fall into place.” Throughout the previous three days at the academy, I had already encountered so many unexpected experiences that I honestly didn’t think it could get any better.  When my name was called with the distinction of the 2019 Disney Dreamer of the Year, my immediate reaction was this isn’t real, followed by ‘oh my God it’s me!’ I couldn’t comprehend that I had just been chosen out of ninety-nine other remarkable peers.  It was like literally having the wind sucked out of me and I couldn’t hold back my tears. Just my being [at Disney Dreamers Academy] as a participant was such a remarkable and life-changing experience and I was beyond grateful for that.  Here I was a kid from Orlando with lofty dreams chosen out of thousands of applicants to attend the academy and then to be chosen as the 2019 Disney Dreamer of the Year, was simply beyond anything I could have ever imagined.  Walt Disney once said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible!” This experience proved to me that nothing is impossible and when your destiny moment arrives it will transform your life in ways you can never imagine.   I will never be able to express the level of gratitude and appreciation to Walt Disney World, Steve Harvey, Essence Magazine and Larry Hogan, my Disney chaperone, for this incredible ride. I am blessed beyond comprehension.

What were your thoughts when they announced you would also be given such a life-altering opportunity to be mentored by Ne-Yo? 

One word…surreal, I was in total shock I felt like I needed oxygen at that point. I didn’t see it coming at all.  When I saw Afrika Lander walk onto the stage I honestly didn’t know where it was going. She was one of the biggest supporters of my nonprofit and music artistry, having pledged to help me in any way she could after my presentation and performance the day before.  I remember watching the video featuring Ne-Yo announcing the internship and I immediately began to hyperventilate.  My dream was staring me in my face, but I was just chosen as the Dreamer of the Year, there’s no way I would be selected. I began praying and my mom held my hand.  Then out of nowhere, I heard my name and at that point, I couldn’t move.  I don’t think I’d ever cried that hard since losing Jayden.  My mom grabbed me and I remember her crying also while saying “Son that’s you… it’s you!” I could barely get out of my chair at that point and she said you have to go on stage. Honestly, I don’t even remember how I got up there and when I did I think I almost strangled Mickey Mouse with my hug! I will never be able to express my gratefulness for everything that was sowed into me by the academy and if given the opportunity I will support it at every given opportunity.

Singer-songwriter NE-YO joins Disney Dreamers Academy alumnus Anthony Juba-Richardson, singer and actor JD McCrary, and ESSENCE Magazine Director of Entertainment Cori Murray during the Disney reception that kicked off the opening of the National Association of Black Journalists conference in Miami, Fla., Aug. 7, 2019.

What was it like to work with Ne-Yo and what did you learn?  

I completed my internship with Ne-Yo back in early June 2019 and it was beyond incredible.  Honestly, being able to work with Ne-Yo truly changed my life.  Just sitting next to and working with him in this amazing studio was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, he poured everything he could into me. He has an amazing heart, spirit and he’s an amazing artist. While I learned so much from him, he also allowed me to share my knowledge, experience, and music; he was totally captivated by it.  The highlight of my internship was when he chose one of my tracks for us to create an actual song and its fire.  I still can’t believe that Ne-Yo is featured on one of my songs.  Ne-Yo’s talent, skill set, and ease with how he makes his music flow made me realize that I was simply over complicating the process of creating music and that sometimes you just have to roll with it. I learned how to comp vocals and how to record efficiently with background vocals and vocal percussion effects. Ne-Yo and his producer Sauce gave me all of the tools I needed to become an all-around better singer, songwriter, and producer.

I also had an incredible session with Christina Chavez and Lauren Gaspard, Associate Directors for Rhythm & Soul at ASCAP. These ladies were so gracious to me by sharing their time, knowledge and expertise in the music industry.  They gave me so many important and insightful tips and strategies to help me jumpstart my career and I am so grateful for each of them.  Everyone was so gracious to me including Pamela Frazier Partnership and Production Manager for Walt Disney, Afrika Lander Head of Marketing for Compound Entertainment who works with Ne-Yo and vowed to work with me to launch and expand One BEAT Away, and Annette Gibbs Public Relations Manager for Walt Disney World, and the [whole] Disney team! I can actually taste my dream now!

 What was the most impactful lesson you learned at DDA?

I learned the importance of being true to my dreams and that no dream is too far from your reach. The gifts I’ve been given are to be used to serve others and not just the advancement of myself.  My dreams are my destiny and I must pour all of me into achieving my dreams no matter what.  If I firmly believe in my dreams, then there is no such thing as a plan B. I received confirmation that my dreams are right in front of me during the academy. The key is in my hand and all I have to do is unlock the door. I’m not only a dreamer but a reality-maker; I now make my dreams happen. I’ve written my vision and though it may tarry it will surely come, I received that word from Steve Harvey, a true icon and boss.

What advice would you give future dreamers?

You have been given distinct gifts and talents, not for the sole benefit of yourself, but to make positive and impactful differences in others and our world. Your dreams and success is a natural part of your birthright. You are in control of your dreams and never let anyone try to take that away from you. Never stop dreaming, never stop believing and fighting for your dreams because they are real and obtainable.

Brené Brown once said, “Either you walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.”  I’m here to say that I’m the owner of my dreams, destiny and walking firmly through my storyline, fully aware of my worthiness and I encourage every dreamer to do the same! If you’re between the ages of 13-19 and in high school, then you must apply. The application process is open now!  You’ll never achieve your dreams unless you’re willing to step out and go after them! Never give up! Keep believing! Be bold! Be relentless! Keep reaching and soaring because you are predestined to be 100!

To follow Anthony Juba visit www.onebeataway.org, Instagram @onebeatawayinc, Facebook: One Beat Away Inc.

October 31, 2019, is the last day to submit to Disney Dreamers Academy to become a participant of Class 2020. Visit www.disneydreamersacademy.com for more information.

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