Market Square in Knoxville, TN delivered a wonderful Saturday visit for my friends and me. Shops, restaurants, and market vendors were flavorful, and the small city park with inviting landscape, hosted a number of city sculptures. At the park, a small group of colorful young people gathered in conversation, and when they came up for air, in their midst stood Jeremiah Welch with his cello and his smile. My friends and I were all in to listen.
After a mini concert, we chatted with Jeremiah. A little shy at first, Jeremiah told us he had recently graduated from the University of Tennessee and was readying to go to continue studying in Washington DC. My friend, Dr. Deb, asked him if he played jazz. He answered, “No. I’m classically trained.” Dr. Deb asked about Kuumba, the African Festival in Knoxville, and when we mentioned African drumming and dance, Jeremiah’s eyes lit up, and he was all in to talk.
Jeremiah, 23, is one of 6 siblings and the only male in his household. His family hoped that he would study accounting but he “wasn’t hungry for it.” Music and dance touched Jeremiah’s soul at an early age. It was at Vine Middle Magnet school where he began to pursue his passions for the performing arts. “The strings teacher came to my 6th grade elective class recruiting for the orchestra program. He played The Simpsons theme song on the Viola! It was the coolest thing I’d ever heard!” He continues, “Also, I picked up West African Dance in 8th grade under Malaika Guthrie.” Shortly after joining his high school’s dance company, where he was exposed to other dance genres, Jeremiah also discovered his talent for choreography.
Although Welch entered the University of Tennessee for music, he never relinquished his passion for dance. Freshman year, Welch joined Strange Fruit Dance Company, serving three years as a dancer and choreographer. Welch also danced and choreographed for the well known campus organization, BOSS Dance Company. All the while, Welch continued to dance in the Kuumba, an annual African Festival in Knoxville, TN.
Welch is looking forward to his exciting internship and opportunity with Dissonance Dance Theatre in Washington, D.C.. Welch will study contemporary ballet and Afro-modern dance under the direction of Shawn Short. Though eager to reach his full potential, Jeremiah had clarified his intent to make a difference for underprivileged youth in Knoxville, Tennessee through art.
Currently, Welch studies cello under Dr. Wesley Baldwin and teaches cello as a volunteer at the Joy of Music School. He aspires to make the difference for middle and high schools in Knoxville that have cut back on performing arts programs. “I was in high school when I met cellist, Zuil Bailey at the Governor’s School for the Arts summer program. It was then I realized that I deserved and could have this life too,” says Welch. “I want to provide an influence for lower income youth, and to show them performing arts can positively enhance their way of thinking – and promote a healthy lifestyle.” Welch gives testimony to the benefits of music and dance as his art. “I find it absolutely exhilarating that both music and dance teach discipline, dedication, focus and awareness. Moreover, they promote teamwork , self esteem, self sufficiency and self respect. Its my belief that performing arts sharpens the mind, conditions the body and soothes the soul.”
In spite of his ambition, Welch has met challenges. “I never imagined I’d finish my cello degree with no cello.” He explained, “My first cello and electric piano (both gifts) were stolen from me junior year. It felt like someone had stolen my heart, my talent and all my hard work. Now I’m playing on a borrowed cello from the Joy of Music school.” Still, Welch believes “God will provide a way” for him to receive another cello. “It’s not just my craft but my only source of income. How else would I make money to survive in DC.” At this writing, Welch is setting up a Go Fund Me for donations, and from what I have seen and heard from him, I’m all in to give. Please show him your support by donating whatever you can to Fund Performing Arts.
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“I aspire to be well rounded in the art of life, where music sharpens the mind and dance conditions the body.”