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Knight Grant for Brandon Cruz Initiative

South Florida Center for Percussive Arts Awarded $50,000

NEC congratulates Brandon Cruz ’03 M.M. Jazz performance, on the $50,000 Knight Arts Foundation challenge grant awarded to his Miami-based South Florida Center for Percussive Arts (SFCPA). The grant will fund an ambitious two-year program “to foster a sense of community among an often disparate group of local percussionists by providing free weekly master classes taught by well known local, regional and national drumming artists.”

The Foundation, which seeks to enhance community-wide participation in the arts in South Florida, awarded 49 grants totaling $2.72 million to a wide-range of projects. Criteria for selection are: projects must be about the arts, take place in or benefit South Florida, and match Knight’s funding.

Founded in June of this year, the SFCPA's primary mission is to create new and enhance existing opportunities to enjoy music through percussion. It does this by complementing school music programs and offering otherwise unavailable classes and ensembles, hosting workshops, and providing access to literature, equipment and rehearsal space. It currently features a variety of ensembles including Concert, Mallet, Caribbean, Latin Jazz, Afro-Cuban, African, rock and Streetbeat plus an indoor percussion ensemble, Velocity FIU that is a partnership with Florida International University.

Cruz is a multi-faceted performer, writer, arranger, and educator. As a classical percussionist, he has performed with the New World Symphony, Miami Symphony Orchestra, Miami Master Chorale, Civic Symphony Orchestra of Boston, and in 2011 he was timpanist of the Fundacion Sinfonica Orchestra in Santo Domingo for their biannual National Festival of the Arts. He was also timpanist and Latin percussionist for the World Champion Blue Devils Drum & Bugle Corps in 1995 and 1997. Cruz has also performed for over a dozen musicals including productions of Cabaret, Leader of the Pack, & Anything Goes among many others and has performed in the show band on multiple ships for Norweigian Cruise Lines.

As a jazz musician, Cruz has performed with several groups including the big bands of Sam Lussier and Barry Mann, the FIU Jazz Lab Band, and NEC Jazz Orchestra. He has shared the stage with Peter Cetera, Arturo Sandoval, Nestor Torres, Bob Moses, and Dave Liebman. He currently is a member of the organ trio Big Fun 3.

He has written percussion music and arranged for several Miami-area high schools. Over the past 18 years he has directed several Miami-based percussion programs and has regularly performed clinics, set up workshops, and consulted area schools throughout. Since 2008, Cruz has also been an adjudicator for the Florida Bandmasters Association.

In 2010, Cruz joined the faculty of Florida International University (where he did his undergraduate work in classical performance), as Director of Marching Percussion and was hired as Percussion Coordinator for the 2011 and 2012 Orange Bowl as well as the 2013 Bowl Championship Series game at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.