78ºF

Legendary musician takes stage with South Fla. kids for holiday performance

Damien Sneed to perform Dec. 14 at Adrienne Arsht Center

Some South Florida kids are getting the experience of a lifetime as they perform with some internationally acclaimed artists.
Some South Florida kids are getting the experience of a lifetime as they perform with some internationally acclaimed artists.

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Damien Sneed is a multi-talented composer, pianist and director who has worked with Wynton Marsalis, Jessye Norman, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and Carlos Santana, as well as gospel greats like The Clark Sisters, Richard Smallwood, Donnie McClurkin and Marvin Sapp.

He was musical director for season four of "Sunday Best" on BET and he's a professor of music at NYU.

He has performed at the inauguration of Barack Obama and conducted the Wynton Marsalis Abyssinian Mass with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and a 150-voice choir.

His 16-city U.S. tour of the mass is the subject of an upcoming film produced by Dennis Scholl of the Knight Foundation.

On December 14, he will take center stage at the Adrienne Arsht center for Free Gospel Sundays along with with the Boys & Girls Choir of South Florida and the Miami Mass Choir.

"Every time I look into their eyes, I see myself -- my humble beginnings," said Damien.

Damien started working with the children last month. He flies in for several days each week to spend time with them in an after-school program at R.R. Moton Elementary in Homestead.

"We are learning things we are singing and we are expressing our feelings while we are singing," said one of the students, Jamary Smith.

Some of the children didn't even know what a scale was when he met Sneed. He's teaching them two Christmas songs that they will perform on Dec. 14 on the Knight Concert Hall stage. Sneed is a huge talent and he is very  committed to this project.

"It will be good for the community for them to sit and have entertainment about the holiday season," said Sneed. "To see that here are young people who are striving for excellence."

Sneed was raised in Atlanta. The only other time he's been in Miami was when he was in fifth grade and his family drove down on vacation. The night they booked into a hotel, Hurricane Andrew hit. Hopefully this visit, the weather will be better.

Most of the children in the choir (ages from 5 to 17) have never been to the Arsht Center or downtown Miami before, let alone performed on a stage before more than 1,500 people.

Follow Neki Mohan on Twitter @NekiMohan

Follow Local 10 News on Twitter @WPLGLocal10