Playing On

Originally published on May 4, 2020 by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County.

Kids are drawn to music. Music has the ability to break down barriers and encourage vulnerability. Music production, from start to finish, also encourages collaboration, the use of math & science skills, and commitment. All of these are reasons we have Music & Youth Clubhouses in two of our locations, and we offer a mobile studio component. Kids love coming to the Music & Youth Clubhouses, and it is no surprise they have been missing their time there.

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Teen Improves Grades and Self-Confidence Through Music

Jaclyn is 13-years-old and comes to the Boys & Girls Club each day after school. Her parents work odd hours, so Jaclyn is often at the Club until closing time at 8pm and is regularly picked up by her grandparents. Until recently, Jaclyn struggled in school. Her academics were suffering and she was experiencing behavioral issues. Her passion for music has helped her improve both her grades and her behavior at school.

Jaclyn loves coming to the Music Clubhouse at the Boys & Girls Club, because she gets to write and perform her own songs. She says that the staff “helps me understand how to use the studio and all the gear inside of it. They teach me how to produce music and write parts for original songs.”

One Music Clubhouse staff member says he enjoys seeing Jaclyn “continue to develop her musical skills and make this a hobby that she can take a lot of pleasure in doing,” He adds, “She greatly enjoys the time she spends in the studio with her friends, working on her projects. She is getting more and more curious about music and how we can enhance the things she is working on.”

In addition to the improved academics, Jaclyn’s confidence has grown through opportunities to perform her music in front of a live audience. She performed at a showcase at a local gallery and at a holiday event at the Club, where she sang in front of 500 guests.

How to Create a Cheap, Battery-Powered Production Workstation (article by Reverb.com)

Original article published April 01, 2020 by Joel Handley at Reverb.com

Article re-printed with permission from Reverb.com

If you work at an after-school music program, maybe this dilemma will sound familiar: Your students want to learn how to make music, but maybe not the kind they find in their school’s classical, marching band, or choral curricula.

The Music & Youth Initiative came up with a cost-effective way to get powerful, contemporary music-making tools into the hands of students. The battery-powered workstation the group devised has everything students need to create modern pop, hip-hop, R&B, or other current music, and it will cost just about $1,000 total.

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Teen Uses Music to Relieve Depression

Imagine being a young teen with the cards stacked against you… You’re bullied for being small; your grades are slipping at school because you have trouble focusing; your home life is unstable, because your dad is finishing a prison term. This was the reality for 14-year-old Warren, and it was taking its toll. Warren was experiencing depression and was terrified of his dark thoughts, he confessed to Music Clubhouse staff.

“I recommended to him that he could use music as a mechanism to release those feelings,” says his Music Clubhouse Director. “I told him that it’s a great tool for releasing stress and a good way to express his thoughts.”

Warren, who always loved music, took this advice to heart and started showing up at the Music Clubhouse every day. He learned new chord progressions on the guitar, plunked out melodies on the piano keys, and asked lots of questions about theory. Warren joined as many instrument and studio workshops as he could: guitar, piano, drums, and recording.

And the results? Not only has Warren’s musicianship improved, but his self-confidence has increased tremendously. His troubling incidents at school have subsided and his grades have gone up. He even had the confidence to perform in several Showcases at the Music Clubhouse.

At the most recent Showcase, Warren’s dad— recently released from prison— was able to attend. Warren and his dad both visibly beamed with pride as Warren performed one of his original songs.

“I believe that Warren has truly overcome a lot of hardship through the power of music,” says his Music Clubhouse Director. “He’s an excellent example of what our goal is at the Music Clubhouse.”

Music Brings Stability, Success to Teen

17-year-old Music Clubhouse member, Eddie, desperately needed some stability. In one year, he had moved over a dozen times all over the country before finally finding a suitable living situation with extended family. The chaos of that year affected his personal life and his academics.

The Music Clubhouse became a place where he could get his life back together.

Through determination and passion for music, Eddie learned to play the piano and master some very difficult pieces. Eddie quickly emerged as a natural mentor, and was soon hired as a Youth Leader in his Music Clubhouse. “He’s done a great job assisting in the Music Clubhouse, as well as running some of his own programs with our younger members,” says the Club’s Director of Operations. The younger participants in Eddie’s piano workshop all look up to him tremendously.

“It’s just really good to be able to bond through music with the kids,” says Eddie. “A kid can sing about whatever he wants and learn a new method of self-expression.”

This same opportunity for self-expression has inspired Eddie in his own life. He was the main youth speaker at his Club’s Annual Meeting. In attendance were Board members and key contributors and supporters, including City Counselors and the Mayor. At the conclusion of his speech, Eddie was given a standing ovation.

“Eddie is an inspiration not only to our kids, but a reminder to our staff on how important our work is,” says the Club’s Director of Operations. “Having the stability in the Club and the Music Clubhouse helped Eddie concentrate on his studies, become a leader, and gave him clarity about his future— he has chosen to join the Marines after graduation this summer.”

Rhythm, Rhyme, and… Writing

Evan is a joyful, active member of his Music Clubhouse. He has always been eager to record music and try new things. “Recording songs is my favorite thing in the world,” he says. “I want to do it every day.”

The staff became curious as to why he was resistant to writing down his lyrics and why he insisted on only freestyling. When they realized that Evan also had trouble with other elements of music structure and writing, it became clear that Evan struggled with literacy in general. And, he was embarrassed to try writing in front of his peers.

His mentors created a unique approach to help him improve these skills without singling him out. Evan’s Music Clubhouse director shared the technique. “Our sessions were focused on a structured lyric writing approach for the entire group.” Combining a rhyming thesaurus with a syllable-based counting activity “provided a comfortable platform for Evan to develop his literacy skills through his passion for music.”

The best part is that Evan’s self-confidence increased. “As the program went along,” explains his Music Clubhouse director, “Evan became more comfortable reading and writing in front of his peers. He found a whole new level of understanding and appreciation for the depth and intentionality behind carefully crafted lyrics.” Evan now enjoys practicing writing using the approach he learned in the Music Clubhouse, and his literacy skills continue to improve!

“It’s always amazing to see youth grow in non-musical ways through their access to music.”

Janie’s Story

It’s not hard to understand why 13-year-old, Janie, struggles with managing her anger. Her dad has been in prison for several years, and all Janie wants is for him to come home. 

At the Music Clubhouse, Janie was given the opportunity to write a song about her dad and to express her vision of what life will be like when he’s released. She worked all summer long creating the right beat, writing the lyrics that properly conveyed her feelings, and recording the finished track. 

At the end of the summer, Janie was able to perform this deeply personal song in front of her entire family. It was a transformative experience, and everyone was so proud of how Janie channeled her anger into a creative outlet.

After the performance, Janie approached her Music Clubhouse director. “Thank you for helping me express myself!” she said. 

Danny’s Story: Mobile Studio Opens Up a Whole New World

Danny is a teen who desperately needed something more. Every day, he would hang out in the local youth center after school, but he wasn’t doing anything productive. The sports-focused programming at the center didn’t seem to motivate him.

Then Music & Youth introduced its new program, “The Mobile Studio,” and a whole new world opened up to Danny.

Each week, the Mobile Studio— which is a complete recording studio all neatly contained in a portable case— was able to transform Danny’s community center into a music production hub for teens.

The Mobile Studio director says that “Danny was immediately engaged.” On his first day, he helped create a beat with a group. And in subsequent weeks, Danny added lyrics and eventually recorded his own vocal track. “The amount of positive feedback he received from his peers after the release of that song was unprecedented,” says the Mobile Studio director.

The Mobile Studio itself is getting as much buzz as Danny’s song. “I can’t express how excited the participants are when the Mobile Studio shows up,” says the director. “It’s a new experience in a familiar space. It’s really exciting for them.”

It certainly has been exciting for Danny, who is now extremely motivated. He writes new lyrics often, helps the younger participants, and takes every opportunity to record. He even started coming to the center when his friends aren’t there just to maximize the amount of time he gets at the Mobile Studio.

“My experience with the Mobile Studio is one of the best things that could’ve happened to me, honestly,” says Danny. “People love the music that I created. People at school are telling me, ‘Danny, you make good music.’ Without the music program or the Mobile Studio director, I wouldn’t have this much fun.”