Lavon Stevens knows the importance of exposing young people to the arts. If it weren't for the mentors he had as a boy, he might not be who he is today.
Stevens grew up singing with his family at church and watching his older brother take classical piano lessons. He said watching his brother play had a big influence on him learning to play piano.
Later on, jazz trombonist Teddy Adams and bass player Ben Tucker influenced Stevens to get into jazz.
Now a regular performer at The Jazz Corner on Hilton Head Island and a board member of the Junior Jazz Foundation, Stevens does what he can to encourage today's youth to explore the art of jazz.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Island Packet
The nonprofit foundation, launched in 2006 by Jazz Corner owner Bob Masteller, works to educate young musicians about jazz. The foundation offers instruments, scholarships, summer camps, classes and seminars to young people.
"The Junior Jazz Foundation supports jazz music education in the schools," he said. "It's an integral part of our arts community here in the Lowcountry."
Stevens' children -- Josh, 16, and Nicho, 14 -- have benefited from the organization. Josh, who plays the drums, has traveled to Russia, Spain and South Africa thanks to the foundation.
"It gives me a firsthand experience of what music can do," Stevens said. "Music scholarships allow our young people to go on to do just about anything they want to do."
He said that doesn't mean he expects his sons to be musicians when they grow up. He just loves that they can appreciate music.
Stevens and several other local jazz musicians will join together Oct. 14 for Jazz by the Beach sponsored by Congregation Beth Yam and Teri Rini Kopp. A member of Beth Yam, Kopp asked the temple to sponsor the jazz event, and she said it was happy to oblige.
The event will benefit the Junior Jazz Foundation and programs at Congregation Beth Yam. The concert will include performances by Kopp, her husband, Larry Kopp; Bob Alberti; John Brackett; Delbert Felix; Bob Masteller; Louise Spencer; and many more.
"I'm excited about the fact that we are raising the level of our music education through programs like the Junior Jazz Foundation and our jazz summer camp," Stevens said.