The Immortal Life of Damien Duncan

Thursday May 25th, 2017

Blog > The Immortal Life of Damien Duncan

Damien Duncan raps a verse amongst the audience. Photo by Jason Koerner.

On May 20, YoungArts held its final Outside the Box performance of the 2016-2017 season, Little Boy Lost: One Child’s Journey of Life Behind Bars. Directed by composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, Little Boy Lost was a site-specific retelling of the life experiences of 20-year-old Damien Duncan, a Miami native who was incarcerated twice in his teens. The multidisciplinary performance included the screening of a short documentary directed by journalist Lisa Armstrong with assistance by YoungArts alumni Nilo Batle (Director of Photography; 2017 Winner in Cinematic Arts) and JeanCarlo Ramirez (Film Crew; 2016 Winner in Cinematic Arts). 

The film was accompanied by an original live score composed by Roumain, played by a chamber orchestral group including YoungArts alumni Geneva Lewis (2016 Winner in Classical Music) and Aubree Oliverson (2016 Winner in Classical Music & U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts), and the words of Simbaa Gordon ( 2016 Winner in Writing), who periodically interjected with an original spoken-word soundtrack that gave more insight into Damien’s state of mind. 


Though the voices of the performers were many, none spoke louder than those of Damien, who also hit the stage to premiere his first track as rap artist Sparkzillaa, and his mother, who’s powerful account of the helplessness she felt when her child was forced into incarceration moved the entire audience.


During the performance, Daniel Bernard Roumain exemplified the modern composer. Playing his electric violin like a guitar, he stood far from the idea of a classical musician. Instead, he embodied the energy and emotion of the evening, catching the spirit, screaming "Hallelujah!" At times, he seemed to forget himself, forget the violin tucked under his chin, the broken strings dangling from his bow, too focused on getting the audience on their feet, getting them to the same ecstatic state. 


Passion was the theme of the evening. Representatives from Empowered Youth, the local non-profit organization that has helped Damien and countless others, were on site for the performance, selling the book “Hope in the Hood,” and running their "Vibe 305" food truck. Founder and Executive Director Colleen Adams was also in attendance, beaming with pride for Damien and his accomplishments. 


Today, Damien’s future is bright. He is the manager at a sports supply store and is also pursuing his music, a therapeutic outlet for him to process some of the trauma of his experience in confinement. The boy who once turned to crime has found a way to make himself immortal. His story, his openness, his willingness to share and love could inspire a million more performances. How amazing it felt to be in the presence of that kind of perseverance. 

Daniel Bernard Roumain switches from conducting to playing the violin. Photo by Jason Koerner.. 

Violinist Aubree Oliverson (2016 Winner in Classical Music) performs her solo. Photo by Jason Koerner. 

The audience looks on as the documentry starts. Photo by Jason Koarner.

The cast, crew, and ensemble gather together. Photo by Jason Koerner. 

Esther Park and Damien Duncan pose with their YoungArts t-shirts. Photo by Jason Koerner.