Founder David New brings purpose to annual South Beach Jazz Festival

Start your new year with music and a cause at the third annual South Beach Jazz Festival Friday, Jan. 4, through Sunday, Jan. 6. This exciting three-day event has an important purpose for founder David New, as well as all the performers.

New is a person with special needs. He was left blind and deaf after a rare illness 17 years ago and was paralyzed from the waist down. Through sheer persistence, and defying the odds, he was able to regain his ability to walk and his hearing, but not his sight.

He created the jazz festival to help his foundation, Power Access, raise awareness about the abilities of people with disabilities. Each of the artists performing also is connected in some way to a person with a disability.

“I moved to Miami Beach and became involved with the disability community and found that there was a greater need for understanding, tolerance and awareness of people living with disabilities,” New said.

The three ticketed performances, and the seven free performances, will feature award winning artists including Dee Dee Bridgewater, Marcus Roberts, Nestor Torres, Brian Lynch, Nicole Yarling, Jonathan Joseph, Bobby Thomas, Maria Rivas, Leesa Richards, and Alex Weitz.

New’s slogan is “From Disability to Serendipity.”

“Disabilities are such a challenge and struggle for so many people and I wanted for people to know that from those challenges beautiful music and talented individuals could evolve, bringing inspiration and enjoyment to others,” he said.

“Historically and today, people with disabilities have risen above the highest benchmarks for success in every field and the stigma that surrounds them is something I would like to shatter.”

A great deal of his success he attributes to his beloved service dog, Lola.

“Lola gives me the chance for self-sufficiency,” New said. “She creates the opportunity for me to be independent and she is my best friend and protector. I have new freedom and courage to live my life without barriers.”

He said he lives in South Beach because “there are so many excellent venues for us to utilize and it is already an accessible city.”

“It’s the perfect place to bring this kind of world-class event to the people,” he said.

In its short history, the South Beach Jazz Festival has become a recognized national event. It also attracts audiences from around the world, organizers said. Production for the festival is Miami based KCC Productions.

The festival’s ticketed events will be held at Miami Beach’s iconic theaters and venues including the Colony Theatre and the Miami Beach Community Church. Free performances will take place on stages at Euclid Circle and 1111 Lincoln Rd.

New said he wants audiences to enjoy the concerts and also take from them one simple message.

He hopes, he said, “that we can all be better people in spite of and as a result of the challenges we face.”

Prices for the ticketed events range from $40 – $65. To buy tickets and learn about the free concerts, go to or call 786-607 JAZZ (5299).

11-year-old pianist in concert

Young Jacob Velazquez, a child prodigy on the autism spectrum, will play a solo performance, “An Evening of Beethoven,” to raise funds for The Victory Center, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9, at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, 3385 NE 188th St.

Jacob Velazquez -2.jpg

Piano prodigy Jacob Velazquez, 11, who is on the autism spectrum, will play “An Evening of Beethoven” Jan. 9 to raise funds for The Victory Center in Aventura.

Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Jacob was admitted to the National Musicians Guild at age 5. By age 6, he was in the studio recording his first album, “Jacob.”

“This amazing evening will be an opportunity for guests and sponsor partners to come together to make a tremendous difference in the lives of our students and families affected by autism and other related disabilities,” said Raquel Pancer, chief executive officer of the The Victory Center, which operates on donations, grants and tuition.

Jacob has performed with the Space Coast Symphony Orchestra, the Hallandale Symphonic Pops Orchestra, the Sugar Pops Orchestra and the Imperial Symphony Orchestra and has appeared on “Good Morning America,” “The View,” “The Steve Harvey Show,” “The Harry Show,” CNN, HLN and Telemundo.

The concert is hosted by The Victory Center in collaboration with The Miami Piano International Festival and the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center.

“We believe all children, regardless of ability, should have access to an exceptional evidence-based education within a nurturing environment, to thrive at their optimal potential. Jacob is a great example of this,” Pancer said. “He inspires not only those around him, but those who hear his music.”

Contact The Victory Center at 305-466-1142 or Tickets are $40-$60 and can be purchased online at