Music+Dedication=Results

Teen participants, Jason and Trey, attend different Music Clubhouses. But they have a lot in common.

Both are talented musicians. Both attend their Clubhouses consistently every day and with great enthusiasm. And both are seeing the payoff to their commitment and hard work.

In addition to their musical accomplishments— such as Jason playing in an elite band, and Trey learning how to write and record his original songs— the teens have grown and matured personally.

Trey made such progress that he won a Junior Youth of the Year award at his Club. And he proudly shares that “My grades and writing have gotten better.”

Similarly, Jason’s Music Director says, “He has shown a huge improvement academically. After struggling last year, he just showed me a report card with excellent grades and nearly perfect attendance.”

 

This progress helped Jason look to the future. “The music program has given me the greatest insight on what I want to do in the future. Without the music program I would still be looking for what to do after high school. I plan to pursue a career in the music industry where I can support myself through music.”

 

Finding Common Ground

This is the story of eight youth, boys and girls ages 12-13, who came together to do a studio project.

When they first entered the studio, none of them really seemed interested in the project. The boys were searching YouTube for the latest rap songs. The girls were trying to distance themselves from the boys. Even after a pep-talk from their Music Director, they didn’t seem any more motivated.

Then, one of the boys made a casual comment about his cousin and the family’s difficulty coming to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic this past summer. It was a conversation starter— a conversation that all eight participants related to in some way. They all understood the struggle of coming to the U.S. to start a new life— a better life— with nothing but the clothes on your back.

Almost immediately, the boys started writing rap lyrics, half in English and half in Spanish. The girls took the initiative and started coming up with a hook. One student worked with staff to come up with the instrumental track. In just over an hour the song was recorded.

“It was a flurry of creative activity that culminated in something that they were all proud of,” shares their Music Director. “Their completed song will be featured on an upcoming compilation album.”

This group of youth learned how shared experiences can bring people together. And how music comes from a deeply personal space.

Access and Opportunity for Two Brothers

Brothers Zach and Ivan have always had incredible musical potential. But what they didn’t have was access and opportunity.

There were many life circumstances that made opportunities difficult. English is their second language. Their mom works long hours, yet still struggles to make ends meet. And they have an older sister with special needs who requires extra care. Extracurricular activities seemed simply inaccessible to them— until they discovered the Music Clubhouse through the Boys & Girls Club’s Licensed After School Program.

There, Zach and Ivan found a deep love of music and have become dedicated and talented instrumentalists. The older brother, Zach, picked up the guitar and quickly became a top participant at the club. The younger brother, Ivan, is a multi-talented musician who has become proficient in every other instrument within a year. When they come to the club, every minute is spent in the studio practicing.

Getting involved with the Music Clubhouse has been a true game changer for these two,” says their Music Director. “The economic circumstances at home make opportunity hard to come by at times, but these brothers have benefited more from this program in a year than most youth do in three, and that goes beyond just music. The clubhouse staff are greeted every time they come in by a giant smile, infectious enthusiasm, and a love of music that reminds us of why we’re in this line of work.”

A highlight of Zach and Ivan’s musical accomplishments was when they were featured performers at a recent community-wide event. This was the first performance that their mom was able to attend, and she was able to see their happiness shine through and their self-confidence soar.

Clubhouse Transformed: An Interview with HSTF’s Celina Miranda

Celina Miranda, Executive Director of Hyde Square Task Force

Music & Youth has proudly partnered with the Hyde Square Task Force, a leading community organization in Jamaica Plain, Boston, for over 10 years. In their own words: “Our work is guided by our mission: to develop the skills of youth and their families, so they are empowered to enhance their own lives and build a strong and vibrant community.”

Recently, the Hyde Square Task Force Music Clubhouse underwent a major renovation, doubling its size! Gary Eichhorn caught up with Celina Miranda, Executive Director of Hyde Square Task Force, to find out how this renovation is making a difference in the lives of the youth HSTF serves.

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AARP 2017 Purpose Prize Fellow: Gary Eichhorn, CEO, Music & Youth Initiative

“It’s really not about the music. It’s about the kids and their development and their growth. Music is what gets them in.”

By JON MARCUS, 2018

It’s a typical afternoon at West End House, a Boys & Girls Club in Boston, where a cacophony of drumbeats competes with the sound of dribbling basketballs and fitness classes. “This is a relief of stress for me,” a 17-year-old enthuses over the din. Rapping and performing on the drums, bass guitar and keyboard “is how I express my feelings and get everything out. It gives you that confidence that you can do whatever you want to do.”

That’s the idea behind this Music Clubhouse and 17 additional ones in Massachusetts, Texas and Georgia. They’re part of a network being built by a retired tech executive and amatuer jazz guitarist as a way to draw in teenagers vulnerable to other temptations, who often drift away from youth centers like West End House and the other services they offer. “It’s really not about the music. It’s about the kids and their development and their growth. Music is what gets them in,” says Gary Eichhorn, that former CEO.

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‘Something magical that draws you in’

Wyclef Jean’s musical praise hits high note for Lowell High School junior

By RICK SOBEYrsobey@lowellsun.com, MARCH 8, 2018

Lowell High School junior Brian Terrero-Batista had a week to remember — meeting Wyclef Jean, receiving VIP tickets to his show, and jamming out with him post-show. See video at lowellsun.com. SUN / RICK SOBEY

LOWELL — Brian Terrero-Batista starts finger-picking and percussion- tapping his guitar on stage.

Wyclef Jean — the three-time Grammy award winner — bobs his head, swaying back and forth.

He’s catching a vibe from the 17-year-old Lowell High School junior.

“Everyone always says they think it (the unique strumming and tapping) is so cool, and then Wyclef hears it and goes wide-eyed,” Terrero- Batista recalls from last week. “That was pretty awesome.” After jamming out and talking about music at UMass Lowell last Thursday, the pop superstar handed the high schooler VIP tickets to his show in Boston later that night.

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Have you heard about Eche?

If you haven’t heard about Eche yet, you will.

It all started several years ago, when Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith did a clinic for over 100 youth from several Music Clubhouses. When Tom asked if there were any questions, a brave little 10-year-old boy named Eche asked if he could come up on stage and rap. He rapped in front of that entire audience- it was amazing!

Eche continued coming to the Music Clubhouse and honed his rapping skills all along the way. He’s now all grown up, and he recently won a Boys & Girls Club National Competition called Lyricism 101, with his insightful original piece about identity:

As the winner, Eche was flown down to Atlanta, where he recorded at TreeSound Studios, and received $5,000 in scholarship money towards college. In addition, he was asked to perform at the BGCA National Conference

Caption: L. to R: Jim Clark, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Eche, winner of the first Lyricism 101 national competition; Rick Aggeler, Director of Operations at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston Blue Hill Club

Rick Aggeler, Director of Operations at the Blue Hill Clubhouse, shares his pride in this moment. “To Eche, it was validation that working hard at his passion can truly pay off. Both from receiving money towards college, and traveling to different cities in the US. For so many people to rally and give him votes really shows the power of staying dedicated to your craft, staying humble, and writing the best music he possibly can.”

Determination- and a Piano- Help Teen Cross Cultural Boundaries

“I have learned so much that I can apply to both my music life and my everyday life.”

In many ways, Jonah was an outsider when he arrived at the Music Clubhouse. As a Nigerian immigrant, he was unfamiliar with the Latinx culture and Afro-Latin music that were predominant in the Club. Still, Jonah was a musician, a self-taught pianist who played every weekend at church. And through music and his own determination and ambition, Jonah became very much an insider!

As rehearsals for a huge, Club-wide musical began, Jonah asked to be the lead pianist. He invested himself fully in the work. He memorized all the songs. He studied the style of salsa music in order to capture the vibrant Afro-Latin beats that the youth-composed music contained.

Although he did not share the culture which inspired the musical, he learned how to embrace it- and in doing so, he has become a master Afro-Latin musician. His Music Clubhouse Director is proud: “Jonah has shown so much growth, learning how to play piano and being a leader on his team. The other youth look up to him.”

Jonah adds, “My experience at the Music Clubhouse has been amazing. I have learned so much that I can apply to both my music life and my everyday life.”

 

Role Models and Report Cards: A Connection

Can a single report card symbolize something really meaningful? In Sonya’s case, the answer is yes.

When she was 13 years old, Sonya came to the Music Clubhouse with no music experience and a lot of personal baggage. She was struggling with a difficult family life at home and her own anger issues. And as a result, her grades were suffering.

The mentorship she received at the Music Clubhouse, from both the staff and peer leaders, was unlike any support-system she had experienced before. “I started hanging out in the Music Clubhouse and things got better,” says Sonya. “I learned to control my anger. I started learning drums from the Youth Leader- I really look up to him.”

Things continued to improve. The junior band did not have a drummer at that time, so Sonya was asked to sit in. She was shy but quickly became a regular member of the group. “I don’t really like performing in front of other people, but I did for the first time!” says Sonya proudly. It was in front of a crowd at the Club’s end-of-the-year celebration. At that event, Sonya also won the “Transformation” award for the progress she had made.

Throughout this period of time, Sonya’s Music Clubhouse Director had been in touch with her school. “I was able to become connected to her school counselor in order for us to share our experience with Sonya and best support her success,” he said. This type of mentorship approach, in which the Music Clubhouse staff focus on youth development through music, is the key to the mission of the Music Clubhouse.

Which brings us back to that report card. Inspired by the peer leaders who brought in their report cards, Sonya was proud to bring hers in and share it, too. To everyone’s delight, Sonya’s grades had improved significantly. This report card, for Sonya, was a symbol of the hard work she had put in to improving her life and a testament to the dedication of her mentors, both staff and peers.

With good grades in hand, Sonya is now poised to give back, says her Music Clubhouse Director. “She enrolled in our summer Youth Leadership program and begins the process that will eventually lead her to employment in the Music Clubhouse.”