Nigel Henderson didn’t know he could sing until he started attending the James Brown Academy of Musik Pupils, also known as J.A.M.P., two years ago.
Saturday, as the front man for J.A.M.P. at the annual 12 Bands of Christmas at the Augusta Common, the 11-year-old made heads bob and hands clap as he sang some of Brown’s biggest hits, including Get Up Offa That Thing.
Then he performed a few of the Godfather of Soul’s signature dance steps and threw in a couple of well-timed “ows.”
He said he picked up those touches from J.A.M.P., the music school founded by Brown’s daughter, Deanna Brown-Thomas.
“I never thought I could sing because when I first came in there I didn’t play anything,” Nigel said. “Then they asked me if I wanted to sing, so I just started doing my show.”
Crowds at the festival were sparse around noon but seemed to pick up with each performer. This was the first year the event was held at the Augusta Common, which allowed for larger crowds and longer sets than shows at the Imperial Theatre.
Vendors offered food, beverages, and arts and crafts. Children played on inflatables and whispered their Christmas lists in Santa’s ear.
“I wanted a dirt bike,” Landyn Lucas, 6, said. “And I told him I wanted a guitar – electric.”
Landyn attended the festival with grandparents Sidney and Sherry Saxon. The Saxons have attended the festival many times before.
The first concert was in 2001, and Sherry’s employer, Augusta Metro Credit Union, was a sponsor.
In 2004, the Saxons went to the concert because it benefited a scholarship fund at Medical College of Georgia in memory of Tamara Cundey Dunstan.
Dunstan, whose brother was the Saxons’ neighbor, was killed when she interrupted a robbery at her mother’s home. She was a pediatric oncology nurse at the MCG Children’s Medical Center.
This year, proceeds from the concert and the sale of a CD containing performances by each of the 12 performing artists will benefit pediatric cancer patients and their families, and the Saxons said they wanted to support that cause through their patronage as well.
Sherry Saxon said that the outdoor venue was nice and a change of pace but that she preferred having it indoors.
“I think they were lucky we had good weather,” she said. “I think it’s kind of chancing it this time of year.”