DENHAM SPRINGS -- Fourteen-year-old Colin Dyson didn’t start learning how to play the drums until about three weeks before the summer gala for the Young Artists’ Academy of Denham Springs.

So while his fellow drummers took their turns on stage inside Luke 10:27 Church Saturday night, Dyson could be seen a few feet away pacing back and forth, anxiously running through the set in his head.

“I’m so nervous,” said Dyson, a rising eighth grader at Southside Junior High in Denham Springs, to a friend just before it was his turn on stage.

Moving Forward in the Arts Summer Gala

Fourteen-year-old Colin Dyson of the Young Artists’ Academy of Denham Springs takes a bow following his drum performance during the “Moving Forward in the Arts” summer gala on Saturday, Aug. 5.

Unlike the other kids in the group, who all played on the snare drum, Dyson was going to play on an actual drum set while instructor Robert Reynolds accompanied him on the bass.

Despite the early nerves and a couple hiccups, Dyson was able to find a steady beat to follow, and soon he had the 200 or so people gathered in the room bobbing their heads and tapping their toes before erupting in applause when Dyson put down his sticks.

After that, he spent the rest of the night giving congratulatory high fives and fist pumps.

“That was fun,” he said.

Dyson wasn’t the only one having a good time on this night.

The Young Artists’ Academy (YAA) of Denham Springs, along with Luke 10:27 Church, hosted the “Moving Forward in the Arts” summer gala on Saturday, Aug. 5, featuring food, a silent auction, door prizes and performances from children who participated in YAA’s summer classes.

Moving Forward in the Arts Summer Gala

Skyler Pettitt (front) does a break dance during a performance put on by children of the Young Artists’ Academy during the organization’s “Moving Forward in the Arts” summer gala on Saturday, Aug. 5.

There were around 25 items scattered across the room for participants to bid on — ranging from birdhouses to gift cards to Cajun food baskets. There were also nine pieces of stoneware available for people to purchase outright.

The silent auction generated around $885, which will go toward maintaining the YAA, which provides children ages 5-18 with free classes in dance, instruments, singing and cooking as well as uniforms for the program.

Nearly 50 children took part in YAA’s summer classes, which is down from previous years but undoubtedly due to the Great Flood of 2016.

But despite the slimmed-down number of attendees, they managed to have another successful summer program — and summer gala.

Moving Forward in the Arts Summer Gala

Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry (far right) addresses the audience to start the “Moving Forward in the Arts” summer gala on Saturday, Aug. 5.

“Everyone in this room has pulled together like the community we are,” said Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry, who kicked off the gala with a brief speech.

While people were bidding on the various items on tables lining the walls, students of the YAA — all donning black pants, a white button-down shirt and an apron that read “Serve You?” — went around passing out meals prepared by the youth and adult cooking classes.

When the children weren’t serving food or refilling drinks, they were on stage performing what they learned during the previous eight weeks.

Moving Forward in the Arts Summer Gala

Eight-year-old Ryder Pettitt carries two plates of food to hand out during the “Moving Forward in the Arts” summer gala on Saturday, Aug. 5.

The piano performances came after the drums, followed by a few dance routines, a guitar set and a few songs sung by the Gospel Choir.

More about the Young Artists’ Academy

The Young Artists' Academy of Denham Springs is a non-profit organization that provides classes in dance, voice, piano, drums, and guitar to financially disadvantaged children in the Denham Springs area.

In exchange for free arts classes, parents are required to take a class in cooking, personal finance, and parenting.

The academy was founded in September 2015 by Rev. Leslie Akin of Luke 10:27, a Community of Faith, in Denham Springs, Louisiana, and is located at 536 Centerville St. NE.

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