The Music's in Her

Brejoya Smarr sits at a piano inside her Daytona Beach Music Academy, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary.

Newlywed Brejoya Smarr is taking the world by “song,” celebrating the fifth anniversary of her Daytona Beach Music Academy, creating a non-profit charity and has a book launch set for Friday, May 31.

The founder and director of the academy, she began teaching private piano and voice lessons in 2007. Her staff consists of teachers with education, performance and business backgrounds, many of whom teach multiple instruments.

The non-profit Arts Transforming Our Tomorrow Inc. will provide scholarships and opportunities to disadvantaged families. The goal is to award at least five to 10 students an art program of their choice (dance, music lessons, art camp, etc.) in the Daytona Beach area this summer. Since many schools don’t have the funds for full time music teachers, ATOT may potentially assist local schools with music supplies.

Ms. Smarr’s book, “The Body of Art, Different Parts, One Mission,” is a compilation of memoirs from the arts, business owners and educators. For every book sold, $5 will go directly to the non-profit. The book speaks about the pending death of the arts in education, but offers a solution as does the nonprofit.

The arts have a solution for the young people who are on the streets because they don’t know who they are and haven’t had an opportunity to become involved in something they enjoy, she said. Also, for those families that don’t have access to or finances for extra-curricular activities. The book is about solutions and “the nonprofit is the vehicle to which our community can pour into and give access and equity to everyone, no matter the income,” she said.

Ms. Smarr, who also teaches music at Ortona Elementary, said, “Music is the essence of who we are. My new book gives many accounts of why not only music, but the arts are important. In a nutshell, music is in every part of our lives. It can be used for entertainment, bringing people together from all backgrounds and age groups, therapy and an outlet in a positive and creative way.”

She added, “Children benefit in so many ways, but the main thing is that it enhances our lives. There are so many demands in schools with tests and the core subjects. Of course, we have to learn but without music and the arts, our children become stressed. They have to enjoy life and find what they are good at. Although every child will not become a full-blown musician, it enhances what they learn. Think of the songs we learned in childhood before we could even read, it’s embedded in our memories and enhanced our learning during that crucial time. More importantly, it builds skills that go beyond childhood, for example self-discipline and self-confidence. We need our youth to know who they are and music and the arts does that and more!”

Ms. Smarr grew up in Daytona Beach and felt the area was lacking in schools of the arts compared to other cities she has seen.

“When I go to Miami, Atlanta, New York or Jacksonville, to name a few, I see schools of the arts galore,” she said. “I see nonprofits filled with kids from the inner cities playing in orchestras, performing in huge concert halls, performing in full shows. We don’t have enough of that here. Our youth need more opportunities, especially in the arts. Even in our schools, the arts are not as supported as they should be. There are some schools with thriving programs, but many of them are not.”

Ms. Smarr teaches beginning piano and voice lessons. Other lessons offered to both children and adults include drums, guitar, ukulele, violin and woodwinds. The newest addition is the harp and group preschool (ages 2-5) music classes. You can also rent instruments.

The academy is not tied to traditional teaching.

“We believe in teaching students to read music, but that does not have to stay in the classical realm,” she said. “We teach them what they want to play through music reading and by ear if they wish. All of our recitals are free and we give away cool prizes and trophies for consistency. We are one of the youngest academies in the area, but have been nominated for top music lessons since we started five years ago.”

Ms. Smarr got married to Charles Smarr in January. She has two daughters, G’lia, 10, and Joyelle, 9, both of whom she said are already musically inclined. Her book is dedicated to them. The Mainland graduate has a bachelor’s degree in church music with a concentration in voice from Brewton-Parker College in Georgia.

The academy is at 227 Second St. in Holly Hill. The book launch will be at 6:30pm on Friday, May 31, at the academy. At 3 p.m., Saturday, June 1, a free recital will be conducted at Unity Church at 908 Ridgewood Ave. in Holly Hill.

Books are $20 and are at daytonabeachmusicacademy.com/book-body-of-art. For more information, call (386) 516-4650.

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