The Historic Harlem School Of The Arts Celebrates Janice Savin Williams

March 12, 2024

A special event was held under founder Dorothy Maynor’s watchful eyes, thanks to a beautiful photo mural that graces the lobby and overlooks the main performance hall.

In the house that she built, and the organization that she created, now celebrating its 60th year, former board member, business entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a champion of the arts, Janice Savin Williams was celebrated for her years of service to the Harlem School of the Arts (HSA), and the children who study and train there.

It was fitting that this event took place during Women’s History Month, as the eyes of the world focus on honoring the worldwide contributions of women on and in every aspect of life on this planet.  On this particular night, the spotlight was clearly on Janice, a woman who, during her tenure as Vice Chair and Secretary of HSA’s Board of Directors, touched, impacted, and influenced a remarkable number of young people’s lives.

James C. Horton, President & CEO of HSA did the math to demonstrate the effects that Janice’s dedication has had on the institution and its children, as he addressed her directly, in a room filled with family, friends, HSA board members, staff, and students.  “By the numbers, annually, HSA directly and indirectly, touches the lives of approximately 10,000 people, so over the 12 years that you were on the board (Janice), you had a direct impact on roughly 120,000 individuals.” 

 Additionally, according to the numbers, during her tenure, Janice influenced the lives of some 14,400 children ages 2-18 years of age who were a part of the organization, 75% of those young people were able to engage in artistic training and arts education on some form of tuition and financial assistance, thanks to funds that she donated or helped to raise.  Overall, the value of her service to the organization was and continues to be consequential.  Just as it was in 2010 when Mayor Bloomberg called on her and a few others to lead the organization out of financial trouble.

Board Co-Chair, Lisa Davis and longtime board member, Jacqueline Nickelberry, both reinforced the enduring impact that Janice’s 12 years of service to HSA has had, on the students whose lives were changed because of her generosity, and those who continue to benefit from her legacy.

The evening’s highlights included the musical versatility of the HSA All-Stars, with band members Franklin Rankin on electric guitar, Paul Johnson on base, and 12-year-old Xander Rosenblum on drums, who serenaded guests throughout the night.  The band also accompanied Alicia Waller, an HSA teaching artist, who performed, Stand Up (from the movie Harriet), and  I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,  written by Billy Taylor and made famous by Nina Simone.   

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Former HSA dance student Eden Arrington Mouzone, a current sophomore at the Rock School of Dance Education where she is continuing her ballet studies on a full scholarship, performed a beautifully choreographed ballet, to a rare recording of Ms. Dorothy Maynor’s rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel.  Then the HSA Dance Ensemble, under the direction of Leyland Simmons, chair of the dance department, brought the performances to an exhilarating conclusion with a powerful dance routine that brought the room to its feet.

Related: Harlem’s Dorothy Maynor Harlem School Of The Arts Founder And A Woman Of Many Firsts.

On this glorious evening full of festivity and performances by HSA students and teaching artists, the much overdue recognition and “thank you”,  for her dedication and continued support, culminated with the unveiling of The Janice Savin Williams Dance Wing and a champagne toast to a woman who mirrors Ms. Maynor’s poise, accomplishments, love of community and the children who have found an oasis, where dreams are possible thanks to the steady shoulders of women like Janice.  She played a crucial role in helping the organization’s recovery, and continued success when it mattered. 

Her friends and fellow board members Jacqueline Nickelberry and Lisa Davis referred to her as, “a force of nature,” who “cared deeply about every student who walked through HSA’s doors,” and who focused on “excellence,” as did Ms. Maynor – for this, she will always remain, a significant part of the organization’s history.  

Photo credit: 1-12) by Salahadeen Betts.

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