James Racine, known to most as Maestro J, grew up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Both of his parents were musicians and educators; his father, a flutist/composer/conductor, and his mother, an educator/violinist. Beginning at the age of 4, Maestro J learned to play the violin, mostly by ear, and later also learned to play the piano and flute. As a child, scholarships and competitions would sometimes bring him to the U.S., and with his parents’ desires for him to go to college in the States, the family moved to his mother’s native Louisville when he was 16. He attended the Brown School, where he met Keith Cook, who had just founded the West Louisville Talent Education Center, which provides lessons to kids for little or no money. Cook helped Racine polish his skills and apply to the University of Kentucky’s music program.
He studied the violin and the viola at the University of Kentucky. During his undergraduate years, Racine fell in love with teaching and volunteered his time to The String Project, a program delivered by the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) to offer a musical education to local youth.
During his tenure at Kentucky Country Day School (KCD) which began in 2005, he has grown the strings program from a handful of interested students to a program that crosses over all three schools, with more than 100 student performers. In 2018, he was named Director of Diversity & Inclusion, allowing him to design and deliver trainings for all constituencies of the school community, as well as the local and national educational and nonprofit sectors.
Also in 2018, he founded the Blazin’ Strings Academy, a nonprofit afterschool program for underserved youth in Louisville, KY, giving children an opportunity to learn a string instrument in a safe environment, paired with academic tutoring and social/emotional building. His community involvement doesn’t end there. He has worked with Metro United Way, AMPED, and WESTEC to give musical instruction, set-up master classes, and give kids positive activities with clear benefits to their grades and success. For example, during ‘Books and Barbershop’ day, Mr. Racine partnered with a barbershop where young boys could go and get a free haircut, have reading sessions, get to pick out a few free books, and enjoy a few musical performances.
Please join us on May 23 at the Louisville Marriott Downtown for the 2019 MOSAIC Awards, a dinner event recognizing new or first-generation immigrants and refugees who are making a significant contribution to their profession and our local and global community. Mr. Racine and the other honorees will receive the MOSAIC Award, which symbolizes Multicultural Opportunities for Success and Achievement In our Community. For more information visit: www.jfcslouisville.org/mosaic-awards
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