Jamaii’s Juilliard Journey

Choreography by Jamaii Melvin

The voice on the other end of the line asked, “Is this Jamaii Melvin? I just want to tell you that you’ve been accepted to the Juilliard School for dance.”

This was a shock. After all, the 18 year old was just coming to terms with the realization that he had not gotten into the elite performing arts conservatory. Some of his friends had received “the call” hours before.


“I was just thinking, everything happens for a reason,” the high school senior thought before hearing the good news. “I told myself, you can audition again next year.  It’s not the end of the world, but really it was the end of his world. Going to Juilliard wasn’t a ‘want’ anymore, it was a ‘need’.”

So, later that day, when Jamaii finally heard the words from the admissions committee, he jumped, his phone went flying and that screen… cracked.

Jamaii Melvin-25Now, it seems that the “dream come true” lies in danger of shattering as well. Though the Juilliard acceptance rate is in the single digits, and this Miami native has spent a lifetime training and sacrificing for the art he loves, he may not be able to attend the esteemed institution. Tuition is over $45,000 a year and that does not include housing, food and the other expenses associated with college and living in New York City.   Even with a very generous scholarship from Juilliard, his unmet expenses are still too high to manage.


“I almost feel like I’m fighting. I never felt like I was fighting so much than the demon of this world, which is money. You don’t want it, but you have to have it. It can hold people from training and from getting experiences like Juilliard.  Nooo!,” he cries before covering his face in his hands.


Jamaii’s parents are educators and athletic coaches. They supported his two older brothers in the sports they loved, but never pushed Jamaii in that direction.  They saw the entertainer in him at a very young age. As early as 3 years old, Jamaii and his brothers could be found at home putting together short plays with song and dance to celebrate special family events. So, at the age of 6, Mom and Dad are the ones who suggested that Jamaii attend his first hip hop dance class.



“I got lucky, honestly,” says the 5’11” athletic young man who could easily pass for a wide-receiver . “I never got you are not supposed to do it. It was more like why don’t you try it?”

And try he did. Jamaii studied ballet, contemporary and choreography. He wakes up at 4am to take a bus from Homestead, then jumps on a train to his high school in downtown Miami. After 6 hours dancing each day at New World School of the Arts, he takes another train to his home away from home, Miami Dance Collective. At 9 pm, Jamaii finally leaves the studio, heads home, takes a shower, eats dinner and begins homework.

“When I dance, my main goal is to not be on this earth,” the risk-taking artist explains. I can be uncomfortable, weird, pretty; everything that when I come back to earth I cannot be.”


Around the country, peers and professionals can be caught literally gasping while Jamaii is on stage. He uses his long limbs to be graceful and groovy, pliant and powerful. His talent and work ethic led to his rare selection as a Young Arts Winner in both dance and choreography.  Dance competitions frequently award him top honors and scholarships. While those prizes are appreciated, they cannot be applied to funds needed to attend Juilliard.

“Everything they stand for is how I speak and how I move through this world,” Jamaii explains about his complete connection to Juilliard. “It’s the dream for my path. It’s where I want to go and how I want to express myself to people. That’s the choice, and I hope and I think, that is my future.”


If you can help Jamaii’s Juilliard Journey, please follow this link to give.


Thank you so much for any contributionyou can make… no matter how small. Every dollar will make a difference and is greatly appreciated! With your help, Jamaii’s hard work, and Juilliard’s unparalleled instruction, we will excitedly discover the dancer and man he becomes.

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