Born and reared in Waycross, Jorel Flynn turned to music at an early age.
Today, as JFly, he is a world-class drummer who is using his success to help others.
With the encouragement of his parents, JFly began studying drums and performing regularly in his church. After graduating from Waycross High School in 1994, he moved to Atlanta to pursue a degree in electronic technology.
When offered the opportunity to tour with rhythm and blues singer Kelly Price, JFly chose a new direction. He went on to play with artists such 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 his debut album, "Hypnotic."
In appreciation of his good fortune, JFly formed a music festival back home in Waycross five years ago. The fifth annual JFly Music Festival will be Sept. 28.
Two years ago, JFly created a nonprofit foundation, How Big Is Your Dream?! to promote music and music students.
"I want to give the kids in the Southeast the chance to be successful in whatever they want to become," he says.
"Coming from Waycross, music was one of the things I could do at a high level as a professional. I want kids to see the positive side, to never be locked up, to never take drugs, to be successful."
The fest is sponsored by the city of Waycross and JFly's foundation. Guests will include Tony Terry, Jeff Bradshaw and Howard Hewett.
At this year's festival, JFly has partnered with Georgia Tech to unveil "Georgia Sings," which will integrate science with the arts.
The digital presentation will feature choirs in Atlanta and Ellijay performing live by video with the Waycross and Gilmer high school choirs, accompanied by musicians at the JFly Music Festival.
"In partnership with Georgia Tech, we're going to launch a pilot that will involve schools in Georgia to sing together," JFly says.
"... We'll also have kids from the music camp in Atlanta performing," he says. "We do a music camp every year through the foundation. This is going to be a celebration because it's our fifth year."
Other performers will include Cherrelle, Chandra Currelley from Tyler Perry's "Madea's Big Family," Antonio Allen, the Good Times Brass Band, Melvin Miller, Emdee Brown, Latrese Bush and some surprise special guests.
JFly didn't realize he wanted to be a professional musician until moving to Atlanta.
"People were always telling me I needed something to fall back on," he says. "Nobody ever told me to follow my heart. I was still in search for what I was supposed to become."
When the call came that JFly had been selected to tour with Price, he had just one class to finish.
"I followed my heart and never had to work for anybody," he says.
Early on, JFly wanted to play drums.
"One of my turning points in middle school was I wanted play drums, but my instructor said I was too talented to play drums," he says.
"He made me play tuba. That made me get out of band, although I kind of still played in church.
"Music was a natural gift, but I pursued things like sports," JFly says. "I wanted to be an athlete because I thought it would help girls pay attention to me."
During the tour with Price, JFly played the Savannah Civic Center.
"That tour took me through a lot of challenges as it relates to coming into a whole new world and not knowing anybody," he says.
But finally JFly was following his own dream.
"My gift put me in front," he says.
He started his foundation to help others follow their dreams.
"Through How Big is Your Dream?!, I've built relationships with so many artists, so many personal relationships," he says.
"I tell them about what I'm doing in Southeast Georgia and that I'm trying to get exposure for my foundation," JFly says. "A lot of them say, 'I'm on. Just let me know what you need me to do.'"
The foundation has already reached many young people.
"It's amazing the leaps and bounds we've done and the amount of people we've touched," JFly says.
"What's more important is that I get a lot of parental involvement and feedback. It's so essential to take this as a holistic approach that it's everybody's obligation to stay focused on our kids - and not just your kids, not just my kids. Eventually, it's going to affect everybody."
JFly has a 5-year-old daughter of his own.
"Ever since she's been born, she's been around artists," he says. "She's always seen the star side of it. It's normal to her. She doesn't know any other way of life.
"I've given her a launching pad that I didn't see until I was 21 or 22," JFly says. "She's already been on a major radio show. Whoever would think a young boy from Waycross could avail his daughter to such greatness?"
JFly considers one of his biggest achievements acting as musical director for the Heisman Trophy Awards ceremony.
"I had never had a live band and for them to entrust me was memorable for me," he says. "The other thing was being elected as a governor for the Grammy Foundation."
His own foundation has impacted several lives. JFly says one of the most moving examples is the experience of the parents of a child who has no motor skills.
"She can't speak without a computer," he says. "She's 18 but has the functionality of a 10-year-old.
"Through her nurses, she said her lifelong dream is be a spokeswoman for How Big is Your Dream?!," JFly says. "Nobody knew she was even thinking that."
JFly hopes to grow the festival beyond Waycross.
"I want to encourage the people of Savannah and all the Southeast region to be at the festival," he says.
"It's a free festival and you really need to see it and become involved in it. It's not just a Waycross thing, it's a whole Georgia thing.
"I want the people of Savannah to come and witness it," JFly says. "Maybe someday we'll have a How Big is Your Dream?! in Savannah."