The David Posnack Jewish Community Center hardly seems like the place for a bunch of teenagers to play loud music, but after persuading some worrywarts who were "pretty nervous about having so many teenagers here," Beth Allen, the center's assistant executive director, arranged a Battle of the Bands last year. "It was great for them to have a venue to hang out and play their music in besides the mall or somebody's house," she said. And hang out they did -- nearly 750 kids came to hear punk, hardcore, pop, and other forms of rock. Allen diplomatically reviewed the tunes: "I think that some of them are great. They're upbeat and fun, and there's a good sense of humor. Some of it is a lot of noise." She laughs. "But if the kids like it, then I want to help provide a safe place for them to play it."
When Devin Wagman, of local nonprofit organization Dafenix Foundation, heard that the JCC was not planning to stage a repeat of last year's battle this spring, he contacted Allen and volunteered to coordinate the event himself. "We organized basically the entire thing, and they're subsidizing the entire project, and we're thankful for that," he says. Wagman is not a promoter, just someone who wants kids to be able to play music if they want to. "The government is more focused on academics; they're more concerned with high FCAT scores," he contends. "They tend to neglect the elective programs because they don't feel that it's necessarily essential to have creative programs to have creative thinking. I think that that's wrong. If it wasn't for art and music programs, I wouldn't be where I am today."
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Today, the recent UCF marketing grad is the head of Dafenix, a group whose main goal is both noble and novel. Its mission is to use scholarships to subsidize fees students are forced to come up with if they want to take an art class, be in a theater group, or play in the marching band. "We want to help kids focus on getting their education rather than focusing on how to pay for their education," Wagman explains. The need for arts programs can cut real close to home. "My little brother was going to be a senior at Flanagan High School," Wagman says. "It was going to cost him $600 to play in the drum corps, so he couldn't participate." Then, along came Dafenix. After a little research and a grant-writing course, Wagman and his board of directors -- who are all 18 to 25 years old -- incorporated in February 2003. -- Scott Medvin