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.”

Teen “Meant to Be” in Recording Studio

On Alora’s first day in the Music Clubhouse— where she signed up for a Voice & Songwriting workshop— she was too afraid to sing on a mic.

“I’ve just always loved music,” says Alora. “But the thing is, I never thought I would be good actually singing to my own songs.”

Fast forward just a few months, and Alora has recorded a completely original song— her own writing, backing beats, and track for the lyrics. And her peers voted her as Artist of the Month for two months in a row.

These achievements are a result of Alora’s grit and dedication, with many hours in the studio, first learning the technology to produce the beats herself, and then to create (and create again) until she was happy with the final product.

“When I started recording in the studio, it just clicked. It was meant to be,” she says.

Alora also made sure to take advantage of all of the mentorship and guidance that was available to her, from music program staff to other youth participants, who helped her with the studio equipment and gave her feedback and encouragement throughout the creative process.

“There’s no way could I have done this on my own,” says Alora. “I didn’t even know how to use the recording studio when I started and I still don’t 100%, but I know a lot more now than I did before. It’s an ongoing process, but I learn more each time I come here!”

When asked what’s next for her, Alora said it was up in the air. “You never know when the inspiration is going to come!” We can’t wait to see what she produces next!

Teen in Foster Care Finds Stability and Confidence Through Music

When 13-year-old Camila was moved through the foster care system, one thing she always took with her was her small toy keyboard. Camila loved music and kept her keyboard in her backpack and brought it everywhere. She could often be seen listening to her limited selection of music on her mp3 player.

By chance, her most recent move was to a city with a Boys & Girls Club and a Music Clubhouse. She didn’t have friends or a social network there yet, but she did have her passion for music. And now, with regular access to a full-size keyboard and instrument instruction from the music mentors, Camila gained enormous confidence and incredible skills on the piano. Additionally, Camila had a knack for singing and songwriting and quickly became one of the Club’s “regulars” during studio time.

Her Music Clubhouse Director says, “The most remarkable transformation for Camila was really in her social life at the Club. The whole staff quickly saw this introverted, shy young lady come out of her shell and become one of the most vocal young teens and active members of the Club.”

Camila agrees. “I’ve met some of my best friends here in the studio.”

A natural leader, Camila was always eager to step into a teaching role and help out younger members. Camila also has been a role model for her peers. “She really set the bar for young teens in the studio,” says her Clubhouse Director.

Dedicated to her craft, Camila became the first member of her Music Clubhouse to ever receive a special award for recording 3 or more songs with real instrumentation and vocals. On a typical day, you’ll likely see her seated at the piano for three hours or more.

“The studio is my favorite place to be,” says Camila. “I can play a real piano and express myself in a place where people understand me.”

In a short time, Camila has come a long way from toting the toy keyboard in her backpack.

“Camila is one of the best examples of the power that music and positive mentorship can have on a young person who otherwise lives a life of uncertainty,” says her Clubhouse Director. “She can take these tools with her and grow from them in the future.”

Turning Pain Into Inspiration

13-year-old Yannis is wise beyond his years. Maybe it’s because he has experienced things that most kids don’t have to deal with at such a young age. Yannis’s mother died when he was only 3-years-old.

“Nothing ever takes away the pain of loss,” says Yannis, “but you can move on and never forget, always honor where you came from and who was important in your life.”

It was this sentiment that drew him to the Ten Toes Challenge, an online viral challenge in which kids freestyle over the “Ten Toes Down” instrumental line. The typical themes for the raps are about hardships in relationships, tragic losses, and other struggles in life.

After sitting in on just a few recording sessions at the Music Clubhouse, Yannis went home and wrote a rap about his mom and living without her. “It’s a heavy subject for a 13-year-old, let alone anyone, to confront and deal openly with the hardship he and his family have gone through,” says his music Clubhouse Director. “His goal was that he wanted to be real and write about something that hits close to home for him, but also something that he has learned to overcome.”

When Yannis shared his original track with the other members of the Music Clubhouse, they were really supportive. It was a pivotal moment for Yannis and his peers. Yannis not only had the encouragement of his community, but he was also giving back through his message. “I hope it helps other kids who are going through a hard time to just know there’s hope and support for you, and that family is number one,” says Yannis.

Teen Lets Her Guard Down, Puts Trust in Mentors

Things weren’t going well for Carla. She was a teen who was often out at night, walking around town, and getting in to trouble. She was fighting at school. She didn’t deal well with authority.

Even when she was invited to join her local Music Clubhouse, it didn’t get better right away. Carla and two friends who joined with her simply “didn’t know how to work with others without escalating to screaming and fighting,” says her Music Director.

But the mentors at the Music Clubhouse don’t give up on their youth. During the first few weeks, staff followed up on Carla’s behavior throughout each day. They found out that Carla loves singing and dancing. And so they helped her prepare for performances at the Club’s open mic nights.

With each subsequent performance, Carla built up her self-confidence. She was even part of the Clubhouse’s first music video for which she co-wrote an entire verse with the help of the Club’s Youth Leader.

As she became more involved in the music program, Carla’s behavior improved. “We were able to show her that we are reliable, caring adult figures in her life,” says her Music Director, “And Carla slowly became more polite and one of the better behaved members of the Club.”

Carla’s tremendous strides extended well beyond the walls of the Music Clubhouse. She started fighting less often at school, and opened the door to high academic achievement. Report cards that once said things like, “struggles to behave and respect authority” now said “understands the material very well.”

Carla’s experience is a real-life example of the power of music, the power of mentorship, and the power of a teen who is ready to turn her life around.

“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.

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.