Dawkins started his musical journey at the tender age of eight, when he learned how to play the bass and conga drums. At nineteen, he became mesmerized by the sound of the saxophone while listening to his father’s jazz recordings of Lester Young. It was not until he heard the alto sax of Guido Sinclair, however, that he knew this was the instrument he wanted to play. Within a week, he had purchased his first saxophone, clarinet, and flute. Two weeks later, Dawkins got his first lesson from members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). From there, his illustrious career in music began.
Dawkins was named ‘Chicagoan of the Year’ twice by the Chicago Tribune, most recently in 2001. He received a Meet the Composers Round VII New Residencies grant in 2000 and has been awarded the State of Illinois Governors Fellowship award twice. In 2008, he received a Governor’s International Grant. Dawkins established The Englewood Jazz Festival, now in its 11th year and founded Live The Spirit Residency, a not-for-profit arts organization committed to improving access to creative and improvised music for under-served communities within the city of Chicago.