“Groovey” Camp for Youth in Foster Care

With the help of a compassionate music mentor and the Music Impact Network, underserved youth have transformative musical experience


When professional bass player, Geena Spigarelli, considered what she might do while on break from touring this summer, she considered a number of things. Then she recalled how fulfilled she felt when she was a music mentor with Kids in a New Groove (KING), an Austin-based organization that provides free, private music instruction to youth living in foster care.

“I reached out to KING Executive Director, Laura Wood,” Geena says, “And we came up with the idea for a brand new Summer Music Camp.”

It was sure to be a success if only Geena could figure out what to do for whole a whole week with 20 kids, many who were living in a group home and had no prior music experience.

That’s where Music Impact Network came in. Continue reading

Earthquake Survivor’s Shining Moments

Samuel came up with the hook for his original song while working at his restaurant job. Since he couldn’t write it down while at work, he sang it to himself over and over and over again, so he wouldn’t forget it.

Recently, teen performer, Samuel, sang at a TEDx event. He recognizes how significant this is. “It was an experience I never would have had before.” You see, just a few years ago Samuel was new to this country after surviving a catastrophic natural disaster.

When the 2010 earthquake struck Haiti, Samuel was still in grade school. Everything changed in a matter of moments.

Displaced by the tragedy, Samuel and his family made their way to the Boston area to make a new home for themselves. It was there that he found solace in his local Boys & Girls Club. Over the years since then, Samuel has been an active member of the Club, and until recently, he was an occasional participant in the Music Clubhouse, where he sometimes liked to freestyle rap with a group of other teens.

But this year was different— and transformative— for Samuel, says his Music Clubhouse Director. “He underwent tremendous personal growth through our annual multi-week ‘Clubhouse Idol’ music competition. It was really amazing to see it happening in real-time as he progressed through the rounds.” During the weeks of the competition, Samuel began showing up to the studio more frequently to work on his song choices, to record, and just generally be around music.

Each round of the competition brought challenges and triumphs for Samuel. In the second round, Samuel picked his song, Pretty Young Thing by Michael Jackson, only five minutes before going on stage! Despite the last-minute song choice, he advanced to the finals along with “the most competitive field of finalist contestants that we’ve ever seen,” says his Music Clubhouse Director.

The week before the finals, while working at his job at a restaurant, Samuel came up with the hook for his original song. Since he couldn’t write it down or record it at work, he sang it to himself over and over and over again all day long, so he wouldn’t forget it. When he got to the studio that evening, he was excited and motivated. “And only 45 minutes later,” says his Director, “Samuel had fully written his original song about growing up, becoming a man, and learning to find your own way in the world.” With only a few days left to go before the finals, Samuel created the instrumental and taught it to the backing band.

Samuel delivered a soulful, heartfelt performance of his song. And this motivated, talented, hardworking, former refugee from Haiti… won first place in the competition!

Samuel never saw it coming, but his Music Clubhouse Director did. “His mentors had faith in him, and he worked hard. It’s a winning combination.”

Teen Has What it Takes… and Pays it Forward

Photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki

What do you get when you combine a passion for volunteering, musical talent, good character, hard work and professionalism? You get a full scholarship to Berklee College of Music!

High school senior and Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston member Diamonte (Monte), was thrilled to find out recently that he earned his spot at Berklee— full tuition paid for. It was exciting news (albeit not surprising news) to everyone who knows him. From the moment that Monte first entered the Music Clubhouse at the Boys and Girls Club in 2014, he was on the path to success.

Music Director Daniel “DP” Pattianakota remembers Monte showing up that first summer with his trombone in hand. DP recommended that Monte try out the bass guitar, since it shares the bass clef with the trombone, and Monte took to it immediately. His first performance on bass was shortly thereafter at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston Music Awards. Monte has subsequently performed on bass at his successful auditions for the Boston Arts Academy, the Berklee City Music program, and Berklee College of Music. Last year, Monte and his band won a music competition and were invited to Dallas to perform at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Conference.

Still, it was more than just his musical expertise that got Monte that full scholarship to Berklee.

“Monte has excellent character,” explains DP, “He has a good heart and always shows so much professionalism at the Clubhouse.” His strength of character led to his being hired as a Youth Leader for the Yawkey Club. Through this unique part-time job, Monte taught and mentored younger teens. He represented the Music Clubhouse well, always willing to introduce himself to visitors. He helped with everything ranging from setting up performances to various administrative duties. He also had the distinct responsibility of organizing the musical performances for the grand openings of two new branches of Bank of America.

DP says that these experiences have prepared Monte really well for Berklee and beyond. What they offer in the Music Clubhouse is a lot of collaborative and ensemble work, requiring youth to learn how to play together and to listen to each other, both musically and in their social interactions. They also focus on understanding the basics of musicianship and the necessity of preparation for performances. Furthermore, they instill in their youth the importance of representing themselves well, whether they’re hanging around with their peers, at an audition, or performing on stage. Not only do these principles align well with the music education and environment at Berklee, but they also prepare the teens for their future roles in life.

As for Monte, he’s already looking to his future. In addition to attending Berklee this Fall, Monte is planning to do a work-study at the Music Clubhouse, where he can continue the valuable work he has done there already and give back to the community that supported him along his path to success.

Teen’s Workforce Experience Builds Path to Success

Bank of America Awards $25K Grant to Music & Youth Initiative’s Youth Leader Program

Boston MA, July 19, 2018— The Music & Youth Initiative’s Youth Leader Program, which provides workforce development opportunities for teens who have demonstrated excellence and leadership potential in their after-school Music Clubhouse programs, recently received a $25,000 grant from Bank of America. With this generous support from Bank of America, teens are getting opportunities to mentor younger members while gaining valuable work experience, including organizational, administrative, and professional skills.

High school senior and recent Youth Leader, Monte, is one outstanding recipient of this opportunity. Monte was thrilled to find out recently that he earned his spot at Berklee College of Music – full tuition paid for. Those who know him well aren’t at all surprised: Monte is the complete package. Not only does he have musical expertise, but he has shown exceptional character and maturity in his position as Youth Leader at the Boys & Girls Club.

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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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