The History of LaVilla

The historic LaVilla area was known as "The Harlem of the South" during its heyday as Jacksonville's jazz entertainment district. Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and other jazz greats performed along the Ashley Street strip from the 1920s through the '60s. In 2000, LaVilla School of the Arts opened as a magnet school for the visual and performing arts, built on the former site of the Roosevelt Theatre. LaVilla has been recognized by the Florida Department of Education as an "A" school every year since it opened.

LaVilla School of the Arts draws middle school students from all parts of Jacksonville to its nine specialized arts area programs. The school's first band directors were Mrs. Carol McQueen and Mr. Jim Daniel. Immediately upon its creation, LaVilla Bands began showcasing ensembles for audiences across the region, with early performances in Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. In the nearly two decades since, an unbroken line of succession has led to the current LaVilla Band directors, who have recently brought ensembles to Atlanta, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C.

In 2007, LaVilla was featured in the documentary film Chops, which followed band students from their first notes at LaVilla to their performance at the prestigious Essentially Ellington Festival with Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and has been screened at Lincoln Center in New York and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

In 2019, the LaVilla School of the Arts Ashley Street Jazz Band was invited to perform at the 73rd annual Midwest Clinic in Chicago, Illinois. With more than 18,000 attendees from all 50 states and more than 30 countries, the Midwest Clinic gathers musicians, educators, and people passionate about music education of all skill levels in Chicago for the largest conference of its kind. The conference showcases the finest performances by ensembles from around the globe.

Additionally, LaVilla School of the Arts has been recognized for its artistic achievement in recent years:

  • 2018-2019 Outstanding Art School (Arts School Network)

  • 2017-2019 Florida Arts Model School in Music (Florida Alliance for Arts Education)

  • 2017-2018 Arts Innovation (Arts School Network)

  • 2016-2018 Florida Arts Model School in Dance (Florida Alliance for Arts Education)

Notable Performances and Guests

LaVilla Bands have performed on both national and international stages:

  • Montreux International Jazz Festival

  • National Association of Jazz Educators Conference

  • Grand National Adjudicators Invitational

  • Florida Music Educators Association Conference

  • Dallas Brass Holiday Concert, broadcast on NPR

LaVilla Bands have been proud to welcome many renowned guests to work with our students:

  • Blue Man Group

  • Dallas Brass

  • Don't Miss a Beat

  • American Brass Quintet

  • Marcus Roberts

  • Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra ensembles

  • University of North Florida faculty ensembles

LaVilla School of the Arts

501 N Davis St

Jacksonville, FL 32202-4728