Douglas Anderson School of the Arts (commonly known as "DA" or "DASOTA") is a magnet high school in the San Marco neighborhood of Jacksonville, Florida. The school opened in the 1922 as a primary school specifically for African American students. The school is named after local civil rights activist, Douglas Anderson. In 1985, the school was renovated into a magnet high school specializing in performing, visual and language arts. Over the years, the school has accomplished many achievements including becoming a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence and receiving numerous awards from the United States Department of Education, International Network of Schools for the Advancement of Arts Education and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

In December 2009, the school became a Florida Heritage Landmark by the Bureau of Historical Preservation. The ceremony was attended by students and school officials, Anderson's family and the first graduates of the school from 1959.


Douglas Anderson School Of The Arts - McVeigh & Mangum Engineering | Educational

Opening in 1922 as The South Jacksonville Grammar School for grades 1â€"9. The school was primarily attended by African American students, the only school in the region during that time. In 1945, the school name changed to Douglas Anderson School. During the 1950s, the school morphed into a high school with the mascot of "Fiery Dragons" and in 1959, the school saw its first graduating class in 1959 with a commencement speech given by Benjamin E. Mays. During the 1960s, the school closed briefly and reopened in 1968 as a campus for Florida Junior College. In 1970, the school closed briefly again and reopened in 1971 as the Douglas Anderson Seventh Grade Center. In 1985, the school opened as Douglas Anderson School of the Arts becoming the only school in the county offering arts education. During its tenure, the school has produce award-winning performances in theatre, dance and music. Many students from the school were featured in major films including Brenda Starr, Sunshine State and The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking as well as the short-lived television series Safr Harbor.


Douglas Anderson School Of The Arts - Ellie Potts Barrett Choreographer - Fun photos from the 1960's

The school focuses on providing a standard high-school curriculum along with creative education. Currently, the school offers instrumental music (including piano and guitar), vocal music, creative writing, performance and technical theatre, dance, visual arts and cinematic arts.

Students are accepted to the school based on auditions offered in the spring (and often the summer) of each school year. Vocal music, performance theatre, and dance students also have the opportunity to attend a second audition for entrance into the musical theatre program. In addition to excelling in their chosen area of artistic study, students are expected to maintain an average (>2.0) GPA. or face probation and/or eventual expulsion. Also, students can be put on probation for missing over 8 instructional units. Each department features an end of year "jury" wherein a student's contributions to their respective department are assessed and critiqued.

"Extravaganza" is an annual event at the school to showcase student's work.

Creative writing

The department was opened in 1990 and in 2006 became one of the last to receive its own building. Students take a variety of classes to learn, in depth, the techniques involved in writing prose, poetry, and non-fiction, in addition to critical theory and philosophy, humanities and literary history, and journalism. The Creative Writing department produces a literary magazine, Élan, and the school newspaper The Artisan. For a short while the journalism classes also produced a magazine, titled Segue.

Cinematic arts

The formerly named "Film/TV department", established in 1997 under the instruction of Lorry Romano, is the newest department in the school. The department originally began as an extension of the theatre department. In 2001, it became its own department with only 10 students. Students are educated in all aspects of film making such as writing, directing, editing, and cinematography. Each grade level focuses on different specialized projects that require a myriad of skills. The department supports a small number of extracurricular major film projects that act as the flagship pieces in the bi-annual film showcases. Department films have gone on to gain admittance and in some cases awards in national film festivals and the local Jacksonville Film Festival. In 2003, the department was given its own studio featuring a classroom and editing bay. During the time, students would film, produce and edit the "Brain Brawl" competition for WJCT.


The Dance department offers many different classes to about 150 students. The two performing groups, Creative Dance Ensemble and Dance Theatre, require an audition to join. Dance majors study everyday with a rotating schedule of modern and ballet/pointe classes. The Dance department also offers electives such as Dance Production I and II, Jazz, Dance Career Prep, Research, American Musical Theatre, Dance Aesthetics, Variations, and Ethnic Dance. Also, all dancers are required to complete a Choreography credit during either their Junior or Senior year.

Instrumental and vocal music

Musical instruction is divided into four departments: piano, guitar, vocal and instrumentalâ€"which includes both band and orchestral groups. As a whole, the music classes were named a Gold School and ranked number 2 in the nation by the Grammy Foundation in 2008, and number 1 in 2010 and 2012.

The piano department is led by former concert pianist, Vera Watson. Piano students are required to study a wide range of music each year and are expected to participate in master classes, where they are critiqued by a guest artist. In the summer of 2013, several piano students attended the Boukobza Academy in France and Belgium.

The various groups perform throughout Florida and the nation on a regular basis. In 2006, the DASOTA Jazz Ensemble I, under the direction of Ace Martin, won first place in the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival in New York.

The vocal department's top group, Chorale Women, performed at the 2011 ACDA (American Choral Director's Association); a National Music Conference in Chicago. They are under the direction of Jeffrey Clayton and currently hold the title of the best high school women's chorus in the nation.

Other honors include the invitation extended to the Symphonic Band to play at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Festival in 1999 under the direction of Tom Haller. The Wind Symphony, under the direction of Shawn Barat, performed at the 2008 MENC National Biennial In-Service Conference in Milwaukee, the 2009 FMEA In-Service Clinic-Conference in Tampa, and the 2011 Music For All National Concert Band Festival in Indianapolis. More recently, the Wind Symphony performed at the 2011 Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, IL, and the Chamber Orchestra performed at the same clinic the following year, becoming the first high school string orchestra in Northeast Florida to receive an invitation.

The jazz band was also featured in the award-winning documentary Chops. The film followed the jazz band on their journey to the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival starting with their first experience with jazz in middle school, at LaVilla School Of The Arts, and going through winning the competition.

Performance and technical theatre

The Performance and technical theatre department has existed since the school's inception. With a state-of-the-art theatre, as well as a modern 'black box' theatre, students have all the trappings of a professional theatre. The department averages four shows a year, including a children's show, a musical or Shakespearean play, and a contemporary piece. All theatre students are given a background of general theatrical knowledge, taking classes such as stagecraft, acting, plays and playwrights and theatre history, in addition to more specialized courses like Directing and Voice and Dialect. The tech department allows students to assist in design, technical direction, and creation of costumes, props, and sets.

Musical Theatreâ€"a more recently added major opportunityâ€"allows students to enter as either a theatre, vocal, or dance student, and integrate the three beginning in the second year. The performing theatre majors and tech majors are expected to prepare juries at the end of each school year that show their growth over the course of the year.

In 2010, the theatre department began to produce a production of Moisés Kaufman's The Laramie Project. The production gained national attention as the infamous religious institution Westboro Baptist Church protested the event. A counter-protest was staged by current students, faculty, and staff along with city officials and alumni of the school. The production went as planned in April 2010.

Visual arts

In this arts area, many students take part in drawing, painting, sculpting, photography, printmaking, and art history. Gallery openings occur throughout the year to showcase the students' talent. There is an annual Senior Show marking the last gallery opening for the outgoing seniors, and in which they are the only contributors, subtracting the underclass work. The program boasts a fully operational and state-of-the-art photo lab, yearly student built installations around campus, and full facilities for printmaking, sculpture and drawing/painting classes.

In 2002, the visual arts curriculum was challenged by one of its former students. During a lesson in sculpture history, a video was shown featuring nude depictions of Indigenous peoples of the Americas. The student's parents pressed the school board to fire the teacher and remove the section from the course. The case was eventually thrown out and the student chose to voluntarily leave the school.

Notable alumni

Douglas Anderson School Of The Arts - Douglas Anderson school's production of 'Aida' selected for ...
  • Wes Borlandâ€"Guitarist for Limp Bizkit
  • Ash Brannonâ€"Director of Surf's Up
  • Daniel Breakerâ€"Actor and Tony Award Nominee
  • Dekker Dreyerâ€"founder of Illusion On-Demand.
  • Fred Durstâ€"Vocalist for Limp Bizkit. Attended the school for one quarter before transferring to Englewood High School
  • Benjamin Harperâ€"Lead guitarist and former, founding member for Yellowcard
  • Patrick Heusingerâ€"Actor known for his role as "Lord Marcus" on Gossip Girl.
  • Ryan Keyâ€"Lead vocalist and guitarist for Yellowcard
  • Kue Kingâ€"Wire sculptor. Formally known as Ronald Reyes.
  • Fin Leavellâ€"trombonist for Against All Authority and guitarist for The Summer Obsession
  • Sean Mackinâ€"Violinist and backing vocalist for Yellowcard
  • Longineu W. Parsons IIIâ€"Drummer for Yellowcard and other bands
  • John Ottoâ€"Drummer for Limp Bizkit
  • Jon Wilkesâ€"former drummer for The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus


Douglas Anderson School Of The Arts - JU summer camps on display in Florida Times-Union! | Wave Weekly

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