BSA Students Enjoy Surprise Assembly with Janet Jackson’s Dancers and Band

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Dancers and backing musicians for Janet Jackson’s tour at the Baltimore School for the Arts. Photo by Pat Galluzzo.

Backing performers in Janet Jackson’s ongoing “State of the World” tour made an inspirational pit stop in Baltimore this weekend ahead of their Saturday night show at Royal Farms Arena.

Students at Baltimore School for the Arts were surprised Friday when two tour buses pulled up right outside their building in Mount Vernon. For a couple hours, hundreds of artists-in-training piled into the school’s auditorium to watch the pros perform, hear them critique a set from the BSA jazz ensemble and field their questions.

BSA spokeswoman Stephanie Jayakanthan said the school was one of only two that Jackson’s crew has visited on her ongoing national tour. BSA’s well-known alumni network was at work here, she said; alums Dontae and Mashica Winslow, both of whom coincidentally worked on the music and other areas of HBO’s newly unveiled documentary, “Baltimore Rising,” happened to be friends with Jackson’s music director, Daniel Jones, and managed to arrange a visit.

“It felt amazing,” Dontae said of the afternoon. It was set up “so that we could all collaborate and make sure that the kids are exposed to professionals who are in the business.”

The students had opportunities to ask about art, dance, life, ambitions, self-esteem, college — whether to take time off or enroll in an arts-focused track, for example — and life on tour, he said.

“These are things that you can’t get from reading blogs and newspapers and journals,” Dontae said. “There’s no better mentoring than having a side-by-side experience.”

About 400 students were there for the surprise assembly. Many got to hear firsthand performance tips and advice on career prospects from the artists who stopped by.

To give you an idea for the treat they enjoyed Friday afternoon, BSA shared some quick clips with Baltimore Fishbowl.

(Videos shot by Kat Navarro)

This story has been updated with comment from BSA alum Dontae Winslow.

Ethan McLeod
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