Between planning festivals, teaching music and leading workshops, Patrice Bivins has made it her mission to inspire everyone she meets through the performing arts.
“My first and most important role is to help others achieve their best through music education,” said Bivins, Founder and Director of Valley Arts and Entertainment (VAE).
Bivins, born in Huntsville, comes from humble beginnings with strong parents who encouraged her to thrive in all areas of life.
At age 11, Bivins discovered his musical talent and gained an appreciation for music through piano lessons.
“Although I couldn’t attend the piano lessons, my strong motivation and determination would not hinder my desire to learn music,” she said. “I started playing the piano by ear for the junior and senior choirs at our church until I was about 15. I also started playing the clarinet in elementary school.”
Prior to her successful music career, she enrolled at Springfield College in Massachusetts to pursue her dream of becoming an Olympic gymnast and physical education teacher. Upon her arrival, an Olympic coach immediately recognized her remarkable athletic skills and competitive nature. She was one of the first African-American women on the gymnastics team. For more than three years, she would compete across New England.
The long, exhausting hours necessitated a well-deserved break, and on the advice of his family, Bivins decided to visit relatives in California.
“In California, I met my (future) husband who was part of a big musical family,” she said. “He was a huge inspiration to me to focus on music again.”
Bivins enrolled in the Music Extension and Entertainment Studies programs at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“Classes at UCLA have been a huge part of my life,” she said. “Randy Jackson from ‘American Idol’ among publishers, producers, record labels, and high-profile artists and repertoires (A&R) spent a lot of time in my classes discussing the music industry.”
After graduating from UCLA, Bivins earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Athens State University and a Masters of Public Administration and Masters of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology.
“I moved back to Huntsville around 2003 and started working,” she said. “I became interested in the arts and that’s when I decided to create a non-profit association.”
VAE, established in 2006 and based in Huntsville, is a charitable organization that supports students and women in jazz.
Patrice Bivins with festival announcers Abby Kay of Mix 96.9 and Victoria McDowell. (contributed)
Patrice Bivins thanks the organizers Alabama Women in Jazz. (Interactive aperture priority)
Festival-goers at the Bob Harrison Wellness and Advocacy Center in Huntsville listen to saxophonist Yuressa Shonta. (Interactive aperture priority)
Through music, VAE offers dynamic programming and services to engage and promote the careers of emerging and established artists. The organization provides meaningful musical encounters to underserved multigenerational audiences by partnering with schools and other community organizations. It helps students interested in developing careers in jazz, including singers, writers, and composers. It also supports financial need through a music scholarship program.
“The company has done great things in the community,” she said. “I’m so proud of this music program. When I received the decision letter from the Internal Revenue Service (non-profit) for the VAE, it was one of my proudest moments. »
In 2014, Bivins founded the Alabama Women in Jazz Festival. She initially called it Huntsville Women in Jazz, but the following year she changed the name to reflect its statewide reach and impact.
“It’s a unique program that provides performance opportunities for female performers at all levels,” she said. “I want to see more underserved students and underrepresented women in jazz and women in music.”
Bivins is planning the ninth annual festival, scheduled for September 9-10. The event will feature blues musicians, songwriters, singers, educators and artists from across the state.
In 2017, Paula Atherton performed at the festival. Atherton is a jazz composer, saxophonist, flautist and singer.
In a statement after the show, she wrote: “Music education is a vital part of anyone’s education – whether you become a professional musician or not. Valley Arts plays an important role in providing great musical performances and workshops to the community. »
Atherton noted that neuroscientists at the University of Southern California discovered during a five-year study that “teaching music accelerates brain development in young children, especially in areas of the brain responsible for sound processing, language development, speech perception and reading skills. … Other studies have shown that teaching music improves math skills. You can’t argue with that.
Paula Atherton, jazz composer, saxophonist, flautist and singer, performed at the Alabama Women in Jazz Festival in 2017. (SHELLYPHOTO)
Freda Payne, singer and actress, performed at the Alabama Women Jazz Festival in 2017. (SHELLYPHOTO)
Bivins is preparing the next Alabama Women in Jazz Festival. (contributed)
Students from the Boys & Girls Club of North Alabama participate in the Valley Arts and Entertainment Ukulele workshop. (contributed)
Students from Ronald E. McNair High School participating in the Brandee Younger Harp Master Class. (contributed)
Bivins began his latest project, “A Tribute to Great Jazz Divas,” in 2016. The tribute kicks off with live music a week before the Thanksgiving holiday. Performances spotlight legendary jazz singers.
“This is an opportunity for local singers to experience a unique level of performance and challenge themselves to elevate their voices and refine their stage experience from a different perspective,” said she declared. “Typically there are six singers who need to be able to sing and project. I’m proud to have shared experiences with students and emerging artists like Brandee Younger, an African American harpist and composer from New York City and protege of Alice Coltrane. In 2018, Younger presented a panel discussion at Ronald E. McNair High School in Huntsville for approximately 30 students, of which approximately 10–15 participated in a masterclass.
Bivins was the personal artistic manager of the late Charmayne “Maxee” Maxwell six months before Maxwell joined contemporary rhythm and blues band Brownstone. She also co-managed Brenda Holloway, who is best known for the Motown hit “Every Little Bit Hurts.”
Known for her hard work in the community, Bivins received the 2015 Women in Jazz Day Proclamation from the City of Huntsville and is the first African-American woman to become a jazz festival promoter in Huntsville.
Throughout Bivins’ career, she presented numerous musical programs in northern Alabama and Madison and Morgan counties. It maintains partnerships with the University of Alabama at Huntsville and the Huntsville Housing Authority. The headquarters of the VAE is located on the land of the housing authority.
For more information, visit valleyartsandentertainment.org, email [email protected] or call 256-262-7911. Stay informed on social networks: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.