Music has been good to Jorel Flynn.
A world-class drummer known today as JFly, he works to ensure that others have the same opportunities he's had. On Sept 27, the sixth annual JFly Music Festival will be presented in downtown Waycross.
The festival is sponsored by the city of Waycross and JFly's How Big is Your Dream?! charity, which promotes music and music students.
"We just keep growing," he says. "We are partnering with industry as well as universities.
"Peabo Bryson is one of our partners. If kids want to be musicians in the entertainment industry or music lawyers, whatever they want to be in this industry, we're supporting them at a high level."
There was an estimated turnout of 17,000 people for last year's festival.
"It exceeded my expectations," JFly says. "That is remarkable."
In thanks for what JFly has done for the community, the city named him ambassador of Waycross. He is the first African American to hold the honorary position.
"We're impacting lives and connecting dreams to reality with the foundation," JFly says. "When you do the work, people recognize it."
As a child, with the encouragement of his parents, JFly began studying drums and performing regularly in his church. After high school graduation, he moved to Atlanta to pursue a degree in electronic technology.
But his life changed forever when JFly was offered the opportunity to tour with rhythm and blues singer Kelly Price. He has since performed with such artists as Cameo, Toni Braxton, Keith Sweat, K-Ci and JoJo, Phil Perry and Jennifer Holliday and toured with Bobby Brown, Peabo Bryson and New Edition.
In 2011, JFly played at the Soul Train Music Awards and was the music director for the 2011 Heisman Trophy Awards. He has appeared on BET's "Sunday's Best" and "Lyric CafÃ©," made cameo appearances in Tyler Perry's "A Family That Preys" and "I Can Do Bad All by Myself," and released an album, "Hypnotic."
Six years ago, JFly formed the music festival in appreciation of his good fortune. Three years ago, he created his foundation to help kids develop musical careers without turning to drugs or crime.
JFly has been elected to the Board of Governors for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Grammy Atlanta Chapter. A proclamation was issued by DeKalb County to make June 28 JFly and How Big Is Your Dream?! Foundation Day.
This year's special guests include Marion Meadows, Bob Baldwin, Karen Briggs, Joey Sommerville, Marcus Anderson and Beau & Lucy. Abyss is the master of ceremonies and Koby Roc is the DJ.
"The festival has a lot of artists I've toured and played with," JFly says. "Some of the artists who are coming have been seen on 'The Voice,' so we have great expectations.
"We want to share the stage with local up-and-coming artists," he says. "We want to show Waycross what it has right in its own backyard with a day of fun, high energy and music."
The size of the crowd has caused some concerns.
"We've outgrown this area," JFly says. "All of the food vendors had sold out of food by 8:30 p.m. last year, and we had 10 vendors in total. I didn't know it was going to be so massive.
"We've run out of space. Everyone asks, 'Are you going to move it to the stadium?'
"I want to try to keep it open, keep it in the backyard, and open to everyone," he says. "But it's really growing."
Admission is free, but attendees are asked to contribute a food item.
"This year, we're tying in a food drive by asking everyone to bring a food item as it relates to a family that doesn't have the means to survive day to day," JFly says. "We get caught up in our own lives and think everyone is buying groceries the way we are.
"This year, we want people to bring non-perishables and canned goods," he says. "We have a local distributor to make sure that families in the area are supported with food as needed."
The event is open to anyone who wants to attend and JFly hopes fans from Savannah will make the trip.
"My being on the Board of Governors for the Grammy Foundation will bring the attention of Atlanta and the Atlanta area to what we're doing in Southeast Georgia, but I don't want people to think this just relates to the Southeast region," he says. "We want everybody to come out and have a good time."
The theme of this year's festival, "Caravan of Love," was inspired by the Isley Brothers' song. With the current state of social division, JFly advocates unity and togetherness for all, no matter what race, religion or social status.
"Those that experience the festival will never be the same," he says. "It will be an awakening experience full of diversity and culture. Together, we will celebrate the preservation of the cultural arts community."