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African Drums, Awesome Workshop!

Abu Selah is a well known percussionist with a strong influence on hand percussion, primarily from the roots of West Africa. I was introduced to him by a woman named Elvie who runs an organization called DRUM The Program which focuses on community, the arts, and African culture. She proposed an idea to have Mr. Abu teach a workshop to some of our N4N youth that would lead to a large scale performance at their annual event “Congo Square” held at the Vortex here in Austin.

I thought this would be a fantastic collaboration as our youth would not only learn about an instrument not so common in typical music genres or performances, but they’d get to experience different cultures with the opportunity to positively impact members of the community. After a couple short meetings, we worked out a schedule and had Abu come in to give sort of an introductory workshop on what our youth would be learning and playing live on stage.

The great thing about the workshop was that not only did the youth who were able to attend have a great time learning the music, but a couple of the parents sat in on the workshop too and picked up an instrument and played right along. Certainly a wonderful bonding experience! Furthermore, Abu and his team have offered to provide all the youth involved with Djembe’s to practice with during the 5 week workshop since that is the actual instrument they’ll be playing at Congo Square. The event will take place on March 3, 2018 and we’re all excited to be apart of it!

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Check out this video to learn more about the program and what to expect at Congo Square!

You Have To Envision It First!

Something that makes Notes For Notes really special is that even though we are widely recognized for our musical contributions, we offer an abundance of other opportunities to our youth. We strive to empower our youth to better themselves in both their musical development and personal lives. Royal Ree is one youth that embodies that mission.

Just the other day, Ree comes to the studio and says, “Mr. Ray, I talked to my principal at school and arranged a meeting with my soccer team, parents, and school staff in regards to a fundraising event. Do you think you could be there?” I was shocked because she is normally very shy, but I immediately said, “Yes, of course!”

We show up to her school, Austin Achieve, on Thursday evening and are greeted by parents and school staff members. During the meeting, Royal Ree represented both herself and Notes For Notes extremely well.  She pitched ideas, had answers to questions, exuded confidence and conviction and really captured everyone’s attention. There are so many cool things floating around that are being fine tuned but come April, we look to have an outdoor Saturday Soccer Jamboree that will encompass live music performances from our N4N artists, along with food, games, and other activities to make it a really awesome community event. Stay Tuned!

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A Community Collaboration In Austin!

A couple days before Christmas, N4N Austin was asked to be a part of a community charity event held at Walnut Creek Apartments. The event would have several vendors in attendance donating things such as clothes, toys, food, haircuts, toiletries, books, and of course, music.

4 of our Notes For Notes artists showcased their talents and served as ambassadors for our program. The vibes and chemistry were above the charts and everyone in attendance joined us in celebration. Many of the youth from the community expressed their interest in wanting to be apart of what we were doing due to them being inspired by what our artists had shown them.

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This event and community interaction led to a collaborative, all original song titled “Change The World” that features 3 of our N4N artists. Gabreauna Nash, Royal Ree, and Brennan, along with Program Director Ray Price (Syx Synce) and local artist Scotty Love all wrote and performed their own lyrics on top of an original musical piece composed and produced by Ray Price.

This song captures the essence of Culture, Community, Chemistry, and Family and our hope is that this will further help inspire youth to recognize the amazing possibilities of expressing themselves through music and also to bring awareness for positive change throughout our communities.

Check out the song below!

A Family Tribute!

I’m hanging out in the studio and in comes Royal Ree with her Mom and younger sister. Like usual, we all engaged in small talk before asking what new material Royal Ree had been working on. I find out that it’s her Auntie’s Birthday and Ree was interested in making a song for her as a gift.

She shared some lyrics she had written and once the melody was discovered, the process of creation began. With her Auntie’s Birthday being on that very day, we had to work fast to get the song done in time. Fortunately, the production stages were a breeze and we were able to create the music, write the rest of the lyrics, and record the song all within a few hours.

But why stop there? Royal Ree was in such a good mood and her bubbly personality was present throughout the whole day. This was a perfect time to capitalize on that vibe so we thought, let’s just make a quick video to accompany the song. This would serve to be beneficial not only because it’d be the icing on the cake for her Auntie as a Birthday present, but it would also be Ree’s first official music video.

We spent some time capturing footage of Ree in the studio and a few hours later, we had a finished product. I received an email later in the evening saying that her Auntie loved the song and video so much that it brought her to tears and that for me was just an incredible feeling.

Check out the music video below!

Joyful Holiday Cheer From Our Youth!

As we all know, December is a month full of fun lights, Christmas Carols, gifts, friends and family, and overall joy. Here at the Austin N4N Studio, we wanted to contribute to the festive spirit by creating our own rendition of a classic Christmas Carol, “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer”.

A large group of our youngest N4N members (Ages 5 – 9) gathered to sing a choir-style version of the song which was later accompanied by some original music produced by Program Director, Ray Price (Syx Synce).  Their voices were recorded with a Zoom handheld recorder and then processed through Ableton Live where the music was also created.

The whole process of creation was a lot of fun and what better way to show you than to share a video we put together that showcases that. Take a moment to check out the music video and please feel free to pass along this Holiday Cheer.

Tis’ The Season!

The Bush Boyz Are In The Building!

There’s nothing like watching young artists and musicians develop right in front of your eyes. What’s even crazier than that though, is watching young artists form their own groups or bands that actually commit to working with each other to create their own original content. I had the pleasure of seeing that happen with the newly formed trio “BUSH BOYZ” consisting of Finn, Gus, and Miles whom are all 4th graders.

I typically see them twice a week as they come in with a large group of youth for regular programming throughout the week. One day in particular, the boys came in and said “Hey Mr. Ray, we wrote a song that we’d like to show you”. I never take these opportunities lightly because we have certainly seen some amazing things grow that spawned from young minds, whether simple or complex.  Needless to say, I was excited to hear what they came up with.

They lined up side by side and began reciting the lyrics to their song that happened to be about a bush and a rock. I immediately heard a bluesy groove in their cadence so we wasted no time hopping in the control room to start laying down a beat that they could sing over. As the beat was being made, I’d look back to see them smiling from ear to ear and that was an awesome feeling in itself. Once the beat was done, they each took turns recording their parts in the vocal booth. Even though this was their first time ever stepping foot in a recording booth, their vibe was that of seasoned recording artists.

They coached and supported each other and even during the playback of the finished product, they all sat on the couch with their arms and legs crossed like little rockstars. I commented numerous times about how we might be looking at the next Rolling Stones. Everyone was impressed with their studio etiquette and mannerisms, including me. Definitely a highlight moment in the studio for us all!

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Listen to their very first track “The Bush Song” below!

 

They’ve Never Felt So Free!

Collaborations are awesome! It allows separate artistic minds to share a similar vision while contributing their own unique talents to the project. The most recent Austin studio collaboration comes from Rika Shambae and Lamont The Prophet for their newest single “Felt So Free”.

The soulful raspiness of LTP’s voice combined with the dynamic harmonic range of Rika Shambae, made for a beautiful dancehall style duet that will certainly get you moving. Watching them work together was nothing short of magical and the finished product captures that chemistry.

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Click play and give it a listen!

Empowerment From The Stage

This past Saturday was a special day for several of our N4N artists. They were invited to perform at multiple cultural events that paralleled music and original art crafted by local artists of various sorts. A few of the artists that took the stage have already began to develop their personas as performers and the rise of their confidence levels is clearly visible. However, a couple of our newer artists experienced a stage with a live audience for the first time on Saturday.

One of the wonderful things about our N4N studios is that they are equipped with stages modeled after performance areas found in venues that host live music. That allows our artists to properly prepare for shows outside of the studio which has been highly effective. An example of that would be how a hefty handful of our youth graced the stage with such poise and charisma on Saturday. Rika Shambae both headlining at the Culture Fest featuring acts from all around the World, and giving a moving performance at the Historic Victory Grill spread a contagious energy amongst the rest of the group.

We had 6 different acts perform sets consisting of all original songs that had the crowd puzzled in amazement. They played their hearts out. Danger Zone commanded the audience with his powerful delivery and energetic stage presence. KTS engaged them with their soulful lyrics and brotherly synergy. Gabreauna Nash made them dance because she is simply a natural performer and her vibe is infectious. Royal Ree stunned us all, as it was her first time on stage and although beforehand her nervousness was noticeable, the minute the beat dropped on her first song, she became a totally different person. For lack of better words, she killed it!

It warmed my heart to see them really put it all out on the stage. They work hard to develop their talents and to see them accomplish their goals is an indescribable feeling. Let’s just say, I’m extremely proud of them and I’m certain so is everybody else! Here are a few pics from the events. And oh yea, we shot a music video for the new single and International Children’s Month theme song, “EMPOWER”. Check it out below!

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The Studio Sisters Are Taking The Stage!

A couple of months ago, we had the pleasure of meeting a young aspiring artist by the name of Tyree. She was brought into the studio by her mother who had heard about our program and wanted her daughter to experience what we do here. Like many, Tyree was very shy and spoke little words without the assistance of her Mom and/or younger sister. I had seen this similar situation so many times that I was totally confident with assuring her Mom that Tyree would get comfortable in the studio and would eventually loosen up.  After about 2 or 3 sessions of just getting to know her and talking about her goals as a young artist, we recorded her first song titled “Moving To New York.” She must’ve really enjoyed the experience because after that recording, I would see Tyree in the studio at least 3 times a week. I began to notice her comfort level rising tremendously.

As the weeks went on, we continued working on new songs and getting them recorded. Often times, other youth artists would visit the studio to work on their material and would offer Tyree pointers and assist in helping her craft her music. She would see them in the jam room rehearsing for their upcoming shows and that inspired her to want to take the stage as well. Her passion and dedication motivated me to get her ready to perform outside of the studio walls so we began working on other areas of her artistry. I told her she needed to come up with a stage name for branding. The next day she comes in with a princess crown on her head and says, “My new name is Royal Ree.” I thought that was super awesome! Now it was time to get her comfortable on stage.

One of our rising stars, Rika Shambae, has recently become a frequent performer at various venues. She, just like Royal Ree, was very shy at first and even during her first show, she almost let her nerves get the best of her. We rehearsed together in the studio several times to the point that she appeared to be a natural performer during her later showcases. I thought, there’s no better person to help Royal Ree get ready for her upcoming showcase this Saturday, than Rika Shambae. The great thing about the studio here, is that all of the youth treat each other like family. There’s never competition amongst them and they’re always ready to help out their fellow artists, whether it be collaborating on a song, helping with lyrics, or offering stage tips.

As Royal Ree was running through her set list, Rika was right there to guide her. It really was special to see the chemistry they had. They really looked like sisters. After the rehearsal, we took a few minutes to do a fun photo shoot. Here are some of the shots from it!

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Also, Click play to hear Royal Ree’s latest song, “Rockstar”!

Veterans Of Service

Being a Military Veteran myself, I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for those who have served our Country. Even though there’s a dedicated day to Veterans filled with many Thanks for their service, I feel that sometimes that’s just not enough. Recently, I met a gentleman by the name of L.A. Tisdale who is also a Military Veteran. He spent 13 years in the United States Army and was honorably discharged in 1988. After he got out, he went on to work as a Corrections Officer and now he’s currently employed with the United States Postal Service. But that’s not what makes Mr. L.A. really stand out.

L.A. has been writing songs for the last 20 plus years but didn’t start taking it seriously until 2010. With him being a little older now, his dreams of being the person in front of the cameras has diminished, but his dreams to have his work heard and recognized is still very much alive. L.A. frequently visits the Austin N4N studio to share his work with me and the youth, so we decided to take one of his songs and bring it to life.

Rika Shambae is one of our rising stars and a very dynamic Hip Hop and R&B Artist. In the few months she’s been a N4N member, she has managed to write countless pages of lyrics, recorded over 12 songs, and even performed at a few shows around the city. She looked through some of his lyrics and found a song she liked in particular. The song was titled “Love No More”. We asked L.A. if he’d be ok with us using his lyrics to record the song and he replied with, “I’d be honored.”

We immediately began working on the music, fine tuning the lyrics, and within a few hours, we had the song fully recorded and produced and ready for release. Again, Rika certainly has no issues creating her own content but we figured this would be an awesome collaboration between the youth and the more matured, and if nothing else, it would certainly bring a smile to several faces. And that’s exactly what it did!

(L.A. Tisdale & Ray Price)                                            (Rika Shambae)

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Click play to hear “Love No More”!