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Creative expression flows at Daniel Island Music & Arts
By Elizabeth Bush
Dec 26, 2012 - 8:28:26 AM

Kristen, who teaches vocals at Daniel Island Music & Arts, poses with a student during a recent class.

Adam, a City of Charleston firefighter, is a percussion/drum teacher at Daniel Island Music & Arts.

In a colorfully-appointed classroom on Daniel Island Drive, overlooking a tranquil tidal creek, soft music plays as children swirl paintbrushes to reveal sparkling winter landscapes.
“That’s good, Talia!” the teacher says to a young girl, as she dabs blue and green onto her canvas. “I love the colors!”
Across the hall, 6 year-old Rylan eagerly strums chords on her guitar as her instructor listens attentively.
“Having fun?” her teacher asks, as Rylan tries her hand at a few notes. “…Which strings do you like more?”
In another part of the building, chords vibrate in different tunes as 9 year-old Paige settles in for her guitar lesson. On almost any given day, the Daniel Island Music and Arts (DIMA) is abuzz with creative energy. In addition to art and guitar, there are sessions on vocals, mandolin, piano, drama, and percussion. Soon, strings, brass instruments and photography will be added to the mix. Since the school opened in the spring of 2011, under the capable ownership of Daniel Island resident Eva Ullo, hundreds of Lowcountry children, teens and adults have been letting their inner “stars” shine.
“I absolutely love, love my job,” said Eva, who oversees a team of six instructors and two assistants at DIMA. “To watch, whether its kids or adults, come in and have this great talent and then watch them grow…I feel very blessed.”
Eva is certainly no stranger to the arts herself. She comes from a very musical family. Her uncle was a big band leader from Austria and her father once competed in a music contest against Paul Anka.
“I probably sang as early as I started walking,” recalled Eva. “We were singing all the time.”
Eva later started training with an opera singer, who encouraged her to learn many styles and genres. She went on to re-record several Disney classics, which were distributed worldwide. Another pivotal moment came when she was invited to perform at the Bank of America building in Charlotte.
“When I sang and I was in that atrium, it just echoed all the way up,” she said. “I had tears in my eyes and thought this is what I was meant to do!”
Since then, she’s tried country music in Nashville and also performed as part of a band for many years.  From a professional standpoint, her music took a back seat when her children were born…but it was never far from her heart. When she and her husband, Vincent, son, Nico, and daughter, Bella, moved to Daniel Island in 2010, she decided the time was right to fulfill another one of her dreams – opening up a school for the arts.
“My kids are very musical, but I couldn’t find much down here,” added Eva, who, along with her husband, also runs two medical sales businesses. “So I knew it was my time and my calling. All my stars were lining up…I found this beautiful building (across from Blackbaud on Daniel Island Drive) and had great support…Everybody was really excited about my plans!”
Since then an island renaissance of sorts has been in full swing at DIMA, drawing pupils from all over the region. Eva started slowly, with just a couple of instructors and a few students. Now, about a year and a half later, she estimates that about 100 students file in and out of the academy’s doors each week.
“This is my ministry,” she said. “This is my way of giving back.”
She is also meticulous in selecting instructors of the highest caliber and talent.
“They’ve got to fit every bill. They’ve got to have everything. The personality. The complete, perfect background check. They’ve got to have the talent. There is so much involved…Each person who comes on board with us is exactly what I was looking for.”
Sean teaches drums and percussion and is also a City of Charleston firefighter. Adam, a guitar instructor, is in two local bands. Kristen has an extensive background in vocals and piano.  Zach meets with students at DIMA after leaving his day job at Boeing. Andi, who runs “The Art Palette” at the school, is a former flight attendant turned commissioned artist and teacher. Eva is also able to put her talents to use through her Next Generations Kids program, which offers a platform for launching young performers ages four through 12. A newly installed stage in the school offers the perfect place for her pupils to strut their stuff.
“When the kids step on it, they feel like they are on top of the world!” said Eva, who cried tears of joy when the stage was delivered. “…Every child wants somewhere in their heart to be a performer.”
The Next Generation Kids and other DIMA performers also take to a variety of stages across the Lowcountry to display their talents for audiences. Most recently, a number of students from the school wowed audiences at the Daniel Island Holiday Festival. Another student, with talents in vocals and guitar, is receiving interest from agents. For Eva, the best reward is seeing her students reach their full potential.
“These kids come in at every level…It builds their confidence and it’s a place they can come live their dream out and not have to be afraid.”
In addition to lessons and programs during the school year, DIMA also offers activities over the summer, such as a “Hard Rock Band Camp” and a “Summer Idol Camp.” The whole Ullo family pitches in to help with all aspects of the school. Eva describes her husband as her official “roadie” and biggest supporter. Their son Nico, a high school student who enjoys drums, keyboards and acting, is starting a band. Younger daughter Bella, a talented performer herself, also helps out.
With year-round instruction, there is rarely a time when the school building isn’t humming with activity. But Eva wouldn’t have it any other way. With instruments playing, voices singing, and youngsters giggling while discovering their artistic talents, life is just as Eva always imagined it would be…and more.
“I am blessed. When you can do something that just brings such joy…I look around and say, wow! I just glow. I just stand here and thank God for all my blessings. How could I ask for anything better?”   
For more information on Daniel Island Music & Arts, visit the school’s website at

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