Venice

Fall 2015

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LUCKY NUMBER ELEVEN IN RETROSPECT Dillard High School's rich history of performing arts dates back to a period when segregation was prominent but talent was ubiquitous. BY DESTINEE A. HUGHES PHOTO COURTESY OF OLD DILLARD MUSEUM In 1907, Fort Lauderdale opened its first African-American school. Old Dillard School, originally called Colored School Number Eleven, was just the beginning of monumental African-American achievements in South Florida. The lack of proper educational systems for African-Americans in the early 1900s fueled the foundation for the school. But because Fort Lauderdale was predominately a farming region, locals found it unnecessary to educate them past the sixth grade, assuming their eventual careers would be in farming. Luckily, Colored School Number Eleven changed that mentality. Built on land purchased from pioneers Frank and Ivy Stranahan, a one-room wooden building became the schoolhouse for 10 students. Nearly two decades after its opening, the school progressed under principal Dr. Joseph A. Ely, who added more classes and sought to educate African-American students past the sixth grade. He was also responsible for the school's current name, a nod to James Harvey Dillard, a white educator. The school continued to develop throughout the years. In 1948, Dillard's well-known jazz program attracted one of the greatest musicians in history, Julian Edwin "Cannonball" Adderley. "When he first came to Fort Lauderdale, his real nickname was 'Cannibal' Adderley because he used to eat so much and he was so heavy," says Derek T. Davis, curator of the Old Dillard Museum, which preserves the school's artifacts and history. "The community didn't think 'Cannibal' was a suitable name for a teacher, so they changed his nickname to Cannonball." Adderley brought a new life to the school and helped instill the importance of jazz into the students. "He was teaching in the days when jazz had not yet been accepted as a classical art form," Davis says. "He was one of the biggest advocates of promoting classical music. While he was teaching jazz, he was also teaching Bach and Beethoven." More recently, the jazz program at Dillard has twice won the coveted national high school competition, Essentially Ellington. The band has also won the Swing Central competition in Savannah, Georgia. Today, Old Dillard School is listed on the National Historic Register and serves as a community museum. Dillard High School, located two miles from the museum, continues to set a nationwide precedence with its magnet programs. Though the school has undergone physical and curricular changes, the one aspect that has remained the same: its legacy of influencing African-American students in all areas of education. v PERFORMING ARTS Dillard High School has been recognized for its premier music and dance programs. Here, band director George A. Dean poses with the first band in the school's history (1946). Two years later, Dean was succeeded by legendary saxophonist Julian Edwin "Cannonball" Adderley. 216 Venice

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