Five Questions with: Phillip Kydd

Phillip Kydd is the principal of Warwick-based business services company Gemini Group and was recently elected to the Festival Ballet Providence’s board of trustees. Kydd, along with his sister, established a new scholarship, the Derrick Jerrell Davis Memorial Scholarship Fund, to financially support dance students pursuing education at the ballet’s school.

PBN: You served on several boards locally recently. What led you to joining the board at Festival Ballet Providence?

KYDD: I consider it an honor to have been asked to join the Festival Ballet Providence board. I have always had a deep appreciation for the arts and I believe the performing arts in particular can be very uplifting and inspirational. I am intrigued with the commitment and direction the organization is heading towards with respect to advancing diversity and inclusion with the board, within the professional staff and the student population. I feel this approach will have community support and will appeal to the engagement of a broader audience.

PBN: You created a scholarship in memory of your nephew, Derrick Davis. Can you elaborate Derrick’s impact on the organization and what he meant to it?

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KYDD: My sister, Melody Kydd Davis and I, believe the establishment of the scholarship in Derrick’s name and memory, which is directed at encouraging the participation of and providing financial support for students of color, is an appropriate way to honor him and celebrate his life. Derrick was a valued member of the FBP family and was greatly respected for his creativity and performance abilities. However, I believe his true impact and legacy was felt and measured in his thoughtful and patient approach towards student interaction and instruction. He possessed a unique ability to instill confidence and a sense of belonging in every student despite their experience or skill level. Derrick’s approach to integrating modern and urban dance elements provided a fresh, inspiring and entertaining presentation of dance that isn’t always associated with traditional ballet.

PBN: What kind of outreach do you plan to do with the organization to make the community aware of the scholarship?

KYDD: Getting the message and word out is key to the success of any initiative, interviews such as this are an important element towards raising awareness and interest. Along with earned media, the organization is developing a more comprehensive approach towards fund development activities and appeal campaigns. Social media and a much more robust community engagement strategy is underway. FBP has created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, along with a subcommittee that is focused on recruitment, outreach and promoting the Davis Scholarship, the application process and the financial awards to candidates. This community centered committee is representative of the Black, Indigenous and people of color and is tasked with increasing community awareness, engagement and partnership.

PBN: In what ways do you hope to bring in funding for the scholarship?

KYDD: A well developed and targeted support campaign for this scholarship within the current and expanding friends of the ballet community is a given. However, in addition, I believe there is great opportunity to explore funding partnerships and annual support from both the corporate and foundation communities. Securing funding to sustain and grow the scholarship, as well as an initiative to support the recruitment and retention of professional dancers of colors to join the company are important and complimentary to attracting minority student participants. I believe there are funding entities that will look favorable on this holistic and comprehensive approach.

PBN: In addition to the scholarship, how else do you hope to increase diversity and inclusion within Festival Ballet Providence?

KYDD: Organizational diversity and inclusion aspirations cannot be achieved with a single program or initiative, it must become a transformative and cultural shift that includes and touches all elements of the company. Continued recruitment and diversification to the board, additions to the operational, creative and professional staff, the evolution of dance education programs and more performance productions that tell culturally diverse stories all contribute towards the successful and welcoming engagement of non-traditional participants. The funding formulas for public schools, especially those within the urban core, have been dramatically altered and have resulted in many enhancement programs, such as music, art and dance being cut from budgets and thus educational programming. Festival Ballet Providence is an established and well-respected training and teaching studio that can provide an alternative to displaced enrichment programs. My hope is that the Derrick Davis Scholarship can become a catalyst, attracting and supporting students that historically have not had full access to dance education programs.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.