Dylan Jones

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

On Oct. 3, Elizabeth McQueen performed at Austin City Limits Music Festival with an unusual accompaniment. A group of five high school girls made up the horn section of McQueen’s act, playing just as well as any professional. This is because the girls were trained by professionals.

The girls were part of Anthropos Arts, a charity that connects professional musicians with kids in Travis County who can’t afford lessons. ACL provided a space for the organization as a part of ACL Cares, an area of the festival where select organizations can set up booths and provide information about their missions.

Dylan Jones founded Anthropos Arts in 1998 when he was coming into the Austin music scene. He founded the charity in response to his own experience of taking lessons as a kid. Jones said his teacher was a lifesaver when he was going through a troubling time.

“When I was a kid, my parents were able to pay the 20 bucks, or whatever it was, for a lesson back then, but I did a little bit of research in schools and realized that in the vast majority of Title I schools, there are literally zero kids taking private lessons,” Jones said.

Title I schools have a high percentage of low-income students, whose families typically would not be able to pay for private music lessons. Jones said the Anthropos Arts booth at ACL Cares allows the students to come to a festival they otherwise would not have been able to afford to visit on their own. For five girls, being allowed to perform with McQueen, one of Anthropos’ newest teachers, was just the cherry on top. McQueen said the girls were not intimidated in front of the huge crowd.

“It was exactly what I wanted to happen,” McQueen said. “Most of the girls are drum majors at their school, so they’re just total badasses to begin with, and they just totally nailed it.”

McQueen, a vocal teacher at Anthropos, said she thinks Anthropos Arts is a great way to take advantage of the high-quality, professional musicians in Austin. 

“We are flush with musicians in Austin,” Jones said. “Between the University and the music scene, we never lack teachers. We’re connecting that resource with the unfortunate surplus of kids living in poverty.”

Anthropos communcations director Viviana Kennealy said the program does more than just teach kids to play instruments; it’s teaching them to take commitments seriously and be self-motivated. For the past 10 years, 100 percent of seniors in the program have graduated in schools that have average graduation rates of 65 to 70 percent. 

“We pick kids based on their willingness and desire to do it, and, from there, we stay on them a lot about grades,” Jones said. “Having the extra two or three people in their lives through the Anthropos program that can be checking on them about their grades has been the biggest turning point.”

McQueen, who recently stopped touring after eight years as a vocalist with the band Asleep at the Wheel, said she signed onto Anthropos Arts when Jones asked her to join without really knowing what it was. But, after one semester, McQueen said mentoring the kids has become the highlight of her week.

“There’s a lot to learn, and there’s a lot to be inspired by,” McQueen said. “A lot of these kids are not going to become professional musicians, but they are going to see that you can follow your passion and thrive and also have time to give by watching their teachers do that.”

History and French senior Dylan Jones begins his shift as a pedicab driver in front of Halcyon Coffee Bar and Lounge on Saturday night. Jones has worked for Capital Pedicab for over 4 years.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

The pulse of downtown escalated as bar-hoppers filled the streets and the dinner music of nearby bars and lounges faded into a chorus of club beats. As Fourth Street filled with a layer of cigarette smoke, UT history and French senior Dylan Jones pulled up to Halcyon coffee bar and lounged on his pedicab. 

Around 8:30 p.m., Jones begins his long night of work. A slim young man of average height, Jones rides his pedicab with ease and poise. Several empty pedicabs sit next to Jones on Fourth and Lavaca, while other drivers circle the coffee lounge, scoping out the scene for potential passengers. Two pedestrians confidently approach an idle pedicab driver and immediately begin to negotiate a price. Jones explained that he can often tell whether or not people will be interested in taking a ride. 

“The way that my boss put it to me along time ago, is that if you’re sitting on a corner, you can look at people walking by and you can tell it’s either a yes, no or maybe,” Jones said. “So you only have to say something if their face says maybe.”

Jones began working as a pedicab driver for Capital Pedicab roughly four-and-a-half years ago and immediately enjoyed the flexibility of the job and meeting a diverse range of passengers. With the freedom to create his own schedule, Jones opts to work three nights a week starting between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. He rides through the early hours of the morning until the end of what pedicab drivers call the “power hour” from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. when the demand for pedicab rides is at its peak.

“There’s a man who owns the actual pedicab and I pay him a lease to use it, but because it’s arranged like that, I’m sort of my own boss,” Jones said. “I can start work whenever I want. If I want to take a break, it doesn’t’ matter when I do it, but it’s nice to have that sort of freedom.”

Working in the hustle of Austin nightlife, Jones says it’s inevitable to find himself dealing with difficult customers. Jones saide he once rode a frustrated passenger around until they found their lost car. Jones said that he often deals with highly intoxicated people stumbling around on Sixth Street, too. 

“I think what I don’t like about it is some of the passengers, but like any nightlife service job, you have to deal with people who’ve had way too much to drink,” Jones said. “Sometimes they get ‘fighty’ and sometimes you have to deal with that.”

Though some passengers can be discouraging, Jones explained that he often meets entertaining people. Of all the rides he gives, Jones’ favorite is picking up brides and grooms from their wedding ceremony.

“People will arrange to be taken away from their ceremony on a pedicab, and I tend to work a lot of those — it’s my favorite thing to do,” Jones said. “Everyone’s in a good mood and all the guests are in a good mood. They generally want to go to their hotel or just ride around downtown.”

Philosophy sophomore and former pedicab driver Correy Crawford said he used to enjoy meeting people from around the world.

“I met the most interesting people in my life and I learned a lot from people,” Crawford said. “I wasn’t in school when I was a pedicab and I met people who were from all over the world even as far as Australia. So many different people visit Austin.”

After working late into the night and encountering a myriad of interesting passengers, Crawford said a camaraderie stems among pedicab drivers from their experiences and stories.

“We all go trough the same thing and we all talk about the crazy stuff that happens at the end of the night,” Crawford said. “So much can happen. A lot of people say that pedicabs, at the end of the year, have aged three years.”

Members from The School of Rock who played with James Williamson of Iggy and The Stooges, far right, prepare to take a bow at the Austin Kiddie Limits stage Sunday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

For 14 years, Anthropos Arts has been instructing at-risk students with musical inclinations. Focusing on Latin and jazz music, the organization sends teachers to supplement band programs in low-income schools all over the Austin and Manor Independent School Districts. The nonprofit has educated thousands of students through more than 10,000 lessons and $1 million in services.

This year at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Anthropos Arts had five music students play on stage with the School of Rock at the Austin Kiddie Limits stage. They were showcased in a booth as part of ACL Cares, a program that showcases ACL’s versatility and commitment to Austin’s overall well-being.

“We love being here, it’s our third year and second that we’ve had students play,” Dylan Jones, the founder and program director of Anthropos Arts, said. “It’s great to help these young artists feel like they’re part of the community; it’s a huge confidence boost for them.”

The high schools where the program has been started have an average 60 percent graduation rate. Astoundingly, 100 percent of the students enrolled in Anthropos have graduated with a high school diploma and 80 percent of them have matriculated to college with music-related scholarships. Over the last two years, all of the program’s seniors have earned college scholarships. 

“[East Side Memorial] was shut down for poor performance,” Jose Ahumada, an Anthropos alumnus said. “The school was just in a bad place, and I happened to be there.”

Since then, Ahumada earned a scholarship for baritone to Prairie View A&M University and participated in the school’s marching band. Ahumada also plays bass clarinet, trumpet and saxophone.

Commitment to playing music often spills over to other aspects of student life including academics.

“Caring about an instrument and your craft leads to caring for yourself, which leads to caring about your community. It’s a chain reaction,” said Aaron Day, chairman of the Board
of Directors.

Anthropos coordinates with school band programs that can’t afford to heavily invest in their students. They pay local Austin musicians to teach and commute to public middle and high schools every school day to offer private, one-on-one lessons.

“Paying the teachers to teach lessons supports two communities, both the local Austin musicians who need a steady income and the kids that’ll be musicians in the future,” Day said.

Because of the lack of arts funding in the public school system, many students in low-income districts do not receive the support or individual attention they need in a pedagogical environment.

“We specifically target the most dedicated students that are held back,” Jones said. “We’re filling the void in Austin of kids that want to study music but can’t
afford it.”

Athropos also hosts workshops led exclusively by Grammy Award-winning artists like Esperanza Spalding, who won the award for Best New Artist, and Grupo Fantasma, who won Best Latin Rock album in 2011.

The School of Rock has cooperated with the group since last year, and the two organizations host shows together to exhibit the best young musicians in Austin.

“What Anthropos Arts is doing is absolutely great. It’s great for both the community and for kids,” Yvonne Lu, the studio coordinator for the School of Rock, said. “The free aspect of the program gives great opportunities to kids that couldn’t play music otherwise.”

The long-term goal of Athropos is to expand into other school districts outside of Austin, but for now the students are engaging in a program that does more than teach them to
play instruments. 

“We’re not necessarily trying to make them professional musicians or I would cherry-pick the best ones in every grade,” Jones said. “We’re trying to teach them good habits and build their confidence.“

Founder and director of Anthropos Arts Dylan Jones conducts a group of students at Sound Check Studios Monday evening. Anthropos Arts is a local nonprofit that provides a music education to students from low income schools.

Photo Credit: Batli Joselevitz | Daily Texan Staff

Dylan Jones considered himself to be a standard, angsty teenager, but after taking bass lessons in his hometown of Dallas during high school, he believed he finally had the tools to express himself.

His music teacher, he said, was the first person to tell him he was great at something when he was still unsure of who he was.

However, it wasn't until he began playing small gigs in Austin in the ’90s and volunteering his time at Austin schools that he noticed the void in schools for advancing lower-income students interested in music.

“I was volunteering with kids that didn't have this same music connection,” said Jones, the founder and director of Anthropos Arts, a local nonprofit that provides underprivileged children music education. “Kids without money don't go to [the Austin City Limits Festival]. There was this 16-year-old kid that said, ‘What's that thing?’ It was a bass. That's when I knew there was a need.”

Anthropos Arts has, for the last decade, been providing low-income middle- and high-schoolers at Title One schools — schools consistently identified as low achieving by federal regulations — in the East Austin community, the opportunity to take free music lessons, workshops and master classes.

Anthropos Arts, a name derived from the root “anthro,” meaning humanity, ensures that children from low-income families receive high quality music education in Austin schools and play alongside local professional musicians that serve as mentors. Currently, the program has mentors with backgrounds in most band instruments as well as a vocal program.

“I don't care about the level of talent; I care about the kid that wants to take advantage of this opportunity,” Jones said. “I'm more worried about [kids] showing up than being talented.”

A study conducted last June by the American Psychological Association found that taking music lessons as a child is a significant predictor of a higher IQ in young adulthood. For children, the study found a positive association between music lessons and higher school grades and higher scores on achievement testing in mathematics, spelling and reading. In a district with a graduation rate of 60 percent, students in the Anthropos program have maintained near 100 percent graduation rates with approximately 80 percent of those students continuing on to college, most on full or partial scholarships, according to the organization's website.

“The arts are often a huge cut, despite being such a great release of expression,” Jones said. “The focus is normally on test scores, but we live in one of the most unique, talented cities with musicians willing to give back.”

In the nine East Austin campuses Anthropos is serving this year, students must go through a qualification process to receive music lessons. Prospective students must also come from an economically disadvantaged family that could not otherwise afford private music lessons. Within the first few weeks of class each semester, band directors at participating schools identify students who have a great deal of musical potential but are struggling because of classroom lessons moving too slowly for them or because they don't have the resources to advance their musical talents.

“Band directors [at most schools] have to teach trumpet, clarinet and everything in between all at once,” Jones said. “You wind up having to teach down. You only get [the students] for 40 minutes a couple of times a week, but they are expected to play and march while they play.”

Anthropos Arts chooses approximately 10 students at each campus after an interview process, and each student receives as many as 12 private lessons from a professional mentor over the course of the semester during their regular band class period.

“I try to instill confidence. I try to be patient. I try to get them to achieve more,” said Isaac Pena, a trumpet mentor with Anthropos for the last five years. “A lot of times it's to get them to focus on their energy. Often they don't realize the power in the their lungs. I try to find ways to get them to enjoy what they're doing.”

Pena said his lessons give students the opportunity to challenge themselves through music when the classroom moves too slowly. After two to three months, he usually sees some amount of improvement in his students.

“My band teacher complimented me the other day on my playing,” said Analissia Montalvo, freshman at KIPP Austin Collegiate, alto saxophone player and participant in Anthropos Arts for the last two years. “I play with more confidence, my embouchure is better and my parents think it's good for me.”

In addition to these private lessons, Anthropos Arts also holds school-based workshops in Austin to bring each school closer together. The workshops expose the students to a wide variety of music from jazz to rock, while also providing the inspiration they need to stay in school and find a connection to music, Jones said.

“There's fights, gangs and truancy. And when we do these workshops it's such a ‘come together’ moment,” Jones said. “It's like a campus-wide dance party, and everyone is on the same page.”

This semester, the students will have the opportunity to perform in 10 gigs before May, including at South By Southwest and their annual showcase at Stubb's BBQ. For each performance, students from middle and high schools are combined, and their mentors play alongside them. Additionally, Jones requires each student play an improvisational solo.

“The solos are like storytelling,” Montalvo said. “You get to be yourself in that minute. It gives you freedom.”

The benefits for these students have already reached beyond the allotted practice time. Mentors have seen students increase their grades, decide to apply to college and even say that their mentors provide stability in their lives.

“In all honesty, it feels like they're role models,” Montalvo said. “I had Mr. Brad Houser as my mentor last year, but I still want to be like him when I grow up. He's a great musician.”

The mentors agree with Jones that if they can reach just one student, the program is worthwhile. All students need is the opportunity to have the same musical success that any school in the country can provide.

Jones reminds his mentors regularly that musical education isn't a luxury — it should be provided for everyone.

“It's a place for people to be themselves,” Montalvo said. “It's empowering.”