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  • Writer's pictureBrad

How to utilize the performing arts to increase hope, empathy, and self-worth in kids

Updated: Jun 5, 2022

Release date: May 16, 2022

My guest this episode is David Simmons. David is an actor, musician, director, playwright, composer, and educator, but I know him best as the founder of the UBU Project. The UBU Project is an arts education outreach organization specializing in social-emotional (SEL) arts integration. I first encountered David and the UBU Project when I was reviewing material for the Speak Up Stand Up Save a Life conference. I was and remain impressed. In his work, David is brave, honest, creative, and, most importantly, always himself. We discuss his approach and answer a listener’s question about hope. More information about David, including links to his social media, can be found below.

Biography of David Simmons

Founder, Executive Director of The UBU Project.

An honors graduate of the University of Montana School of Music with additional musical training in Vienna Austria, David’s diverse career as an educator, performer, producer, recording artist, inspirational speaker, worship leader and mental health advocate has taken him to all 50 states, 19 countries and 4 continents. He has served as Education Director and Teaching Artist for Arizona Broadway Theater, Fort Peck Montana Fine Arts Council, Desert Foothills Theater, and as a Teaching Artist for Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Center, AZ Child’s Play Theater, Scottsdale Desert Stages Theater, Wyoming Council on The Arts, and the Missoula Children’s Theater's International Residencies. Additional teaching experience includes residencies with the University of Montana (Missoula, MT), Casper College (Casper, WY) and Estrella Mountain Community College. David also currently serves on the Arizona Department of Education's Round-table Advisory Committee for Arts Education and the ADE SEL-Arts Crossing Guard Cohort developing SEL-Arts curriculum for K-12 teachers throughout the state. David's work for social justice through music, theater, education and community organizing came naturally. He grew up in a family of arts educators and pacifist/activists. His own work in engaging the arts and education as tools of activism includes work as an Actor, Musician, Director, Playwright, Composer, Event Organizer and Educator working for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Pluralism, LGBTQ/Gender Rights, Mental Health Equity, Diversity in Casting and Community Building. His professional affiliations in this work include The Mixed Blood Theater, Penumbra Theater, Minnesota Opera, SteppingStone Theater for Youth Development, The Peaceful Love Warriors, Fort Peck Montana Arts Council, Arizona Broadway Theater and, of course, The UBU Project. David has performed live with Alice Cooper, Bob Hope, The USO and members of REO Speedwagon, A-ha, Tower of Power and Sly and the Family Stone. In addition he has performed with The Phoenix Symphony, The Schubert Kirche Orchester (Vienna), and the Vancouver BC Symphony Orchestra. He has also served as Music Director, Bassist and featured soloist on tour with Motown Recording Artists: The Drifters. In addition, David is a thriving survivor of his own suicide attempts, is a grateful, recovering alcoholic with over 29 years sober, was bullied in school and lives with the managed mental health diagnoses of major depressive disorder recurrent, PTSD and free-floating anxiety. This, in addition to his professional training and ongoing partnership with experts in childhood trauma and K-12 education, helps David bring a unique and hope-filled perspective and dedication to his work with The UBU Project's Social/Emotional Arts Integration and Diversity Equity & Inclusion Residencies. Whether in a classroom, coffee shop, rock club, worship space or classical concert hall, David brings a wealth of experience, energy and encouragement to every stage, school or project he encounters.


UBU Project's website

UBU on Facebook

UBU on Instagram




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