Dennis Mars Takes Motown to Outer Space

By Nia Shumake


The Notes for Notes Detroit and Motown Museum project – Motown Mix – aims to expose young musicians to  both a nostalgic and modern approach to creating music. While our singer/songwriters, spend time writing, reflecting and arranging on Mondays,

Wednesdays at the N4N Detroit Studio are loud and lively due to the energy that our Motown Mix musicians and producer mentors bring.

FullSizeRenderDennis Mars is no stranger to Detroit’s art scene having been a major visual contributor to the media development of many upcoming local artists in his earlier years. His knack for technology landed him in Silicon Valley as a Senior Web Developer for LinkedIn. Nonetheless, Dennis was insistent on creating a life for himself that was fueled by his greatest passion – music. So he returned to Detroit to put in his 10,000 hours as a pianist and producer. Now, an emerging creative director and music producer, Dennis is a vital contributor to our studio environment. The musician turned producer has worked with Jhene Aiko, Royce da 5’9 and Trey Songs.

Through his demonstration, drive and versatility, our promising students are compelled to create.

Dennis works with youth producer Kevin on a remix to “Ain’t No Mountain”

On any given Wednesday, Dennis can be heard giving youth passionate advice about discipline, commitment and the magic of creativity, then flipping Motown records inside out- sampling iconic lines then adding Hip Hop drums, 808s and new keyboard arrangements.  He is a phenomenal leader, because he embraces the youth’s musicianship; giving them permission to voice their ideas during music production. Youth are able to possess creative autonomy in a learning environment, without sacrificing their own sound. This truly epitomizes the essence of a production mentor, challenging the young musicians and producers to achieve greater music goals while maintaining the integrity of their artistry.

Thank you Dennis for partnering with N4N Detroit’s Motown Mix. We look forward to making more music with you!

An Unforgettable Process

Hi Everyone! My name is Gabriel Myers and I think Notes for Notes is amazing. The people who work for this organization are pure hearted and simply the coolest staff I’ve ever met. As a musician myself, I get how much N4N might mean to youth who don’t have access to music everyday like I do. I’d be lost without music in my life. I wouldn’t have any way to express myself when all my emotions are piled up into one big block of goo in my head. Music is like my diary. It’s kind of like a private vault that can only be opened by me. N4N offers free music education and access to instruments, skill practice, and fun any time kids want after school. More importantly, N4N gives kids a safe place to tap into their own vault of confused feelings and a healthy way to release them.

I could go on and on about Notes for Notes and how cool the studios are, but that’s not what I’m writing about today. Today I’m writing about a process. Now, I know you might be thinking, “What is he talking about? What process? Well, let me explain.

At the beginning of the school year, I was assigned an 8th Grade Community Service Project in which I had to select a non-profit organization to help benefit. Conveniently enough, my mom works for one! I talked to several friends about teaming up with me to support Notes for Notes. I was relieved when Devarshi Mukherji wanted to be part of my group. Dev is a loyal friend and he’s also a musician. This felt like a good fit.

We started off with a simple idea that we completed in school: a Jeans Day for $2.00, and Sweatpants for $3.00. Kids hate to wear uniforms, so in one day we raised $219. But knowing it costs $75,000 to run Detroit’s N4N Studio for one year, that seemed like raising a penny. Devarshi and I decided we wanted to do more.

When I first told my mom I wanted to help Notes for Notes, she helped me brainstorm ideas. When she suggested I host a benefit concert, I thought she was nuts. On the outside, I said, “That’s a fantastic idea!” But on the inside, I checked it off as a thing I was NOT going to do. But, all of a sudden, I found myself asking Dev if he’d host a show with me. Even though it seemed like a hard task, I was excited to make a bigger difference. At first, Dev had the same reaction as me, so I agreed maybe it wasn’t the best idea. Later that night, though, I was lying in bed and got to thinking, “Wait a minute. My mom has hosted a few shows for Notes for Notes and knows how to do this. A good friend of mine is an awesome singer-songwriter. And I have the support of Notre Dame behind me! It’s crazy NOT to host a concert!”

I explained this to Devarshi the next day. He agreed to help, but only if I was in charge of planning the show. He volunteered to complete all the not-so-fun school assignments that went along with the project. This seemed like a good deal.

I knew right away I had to be on top of the planning process so our hard work wouldn’t go to waste. I was surprised and bummed when Notre Dame shot down the idea of hosting the show at the school almost immediately. I had to find another venue in a hurry and knew it might cost money. I asked my dad if he’d be willing to sponsor the show. I thought he’d just say yes, but instead he put me in touch with Ryan Brown at his office, CR Myers & Associates. I had never met him before and he asked me a million questions about the show that I did my best to answer. I was so nervous while talking to him that I snapped a white-out pen in half!  I was very relieved when Mr. Brown agreed to donate $1,000 to cover the cost of the show. I then reached out to Olivia Millerschin, my friend and artist who agreed to perform for me. She told me she was playing back to back sold-out shows that weekend at 20 Front Street – a cool new listening room in Lake Orion, MI. I made a date with my mom so I could check out the venue. After sitting through both shows, I knew this was the perfect spot to host my show.

I wasn’t able to meet the owner that night, so I emailed him the next day. Devarshi and I started to lose hope when I didn’t get a response right away. Later the next week, my mom picked us up from school to take us to basketball. We told her we decided the show wasn’t going to work out, so we started to fill out our assigned process journal to get our project over with a few months early. If you know my mom, you won’t be surprised when I tell you her exact response:

“Well, if you guys want to sit on your butts and do nothing, that’s your choice. But I think you are missing out on an incredible opportunity that will really help you in the future. I’m not okay with you giving up yet, but it’s up to you.”

I knew she was right, but at this point it seemed impossible. Imagine my surprise when I got home and there was an email from 20 Front Street sitting in my inbox. The owner, Mr. Allan Goetz, said 20 Front Street would love to support my project to help Notes for Notes and was willing to donate the venue for free! I couldn’t believe it! I was so grateful and I started to think maybe we could do this after all!

We had to get on it, and fast. Olivia was booked for a local show later that month, so the promotions were going to be up to me. An undergound show at 14?? This was crazy! My mom told us what we needed to pull it off. It was a lot!

  1. Venue (20 Front Street ROCKS!)
  2. Artist (Olivia Millerschin is the bomb.com)
  3. Sponsor (Thanks Dad!)
  4. Ticket Sales (How??)
  5. Promotion (HUH?!)

Next, I reached out to James Pyne, my good friend and trombone player for Olivia. He’s also a graphic designer. James created a digital flyer for email and a poster to print and hang. Juliana Lee, Notes for Notes Director of Community Relations, created an online ticket link for me so it would be easy to track who bought tickets and donated to my show. Once these were created, I sent emails out to all Notre Dame students in the middle school and high school. I was surprised and nervous when not many tickets sold at first. So I spent a whole evening making annoying phone calls and sent out several email reminders. Finally, tickets started to sell. I was relieved to know people might actually show up to this thing.

The night of the show was a lot of fun. In addition to the concert, we had a 50/50 raffle and two silent auction items: a Tahir Whitehead signed Detroit Lions Xenith helmet donated by Krista Gilley, and a ukelele signed by Olivia Millerschin herself. I introduced the show to my friends and family and was surprised how easy it was to talk on the microphone in front of everyone. I actually kind of liked it!

Olivia Millerschin

Olivia Millerschin

As I watched Olivia and her band perform, I felt very accomplished. It was exciting to have this experience under my belt and know that if I wanted to do it again there was nothing stopping me.  That night, we achieved something I never thought I could do: We hosted an underground show and raised $4,585! That’s A LOT of money!!! I realized I was capable of anything if I just put my mind to it.

I’m surprised to admit I miss the work that went into planning the show. I don’t know why, and I promise I never thought I would say that in a million years! The entire process was unbelievably hard, complicated, and stressful. But it was worth it.

I have a grand piano at my fingertips, as well as a guitar and lessons. I helped give these kinds of opportunities to kids who don’t have them. Notes for Notes helped me help others. Helping takes work for sure, but now I know how great it feels after it’s done. I’m proud to say I’ve accomplished something not everyone my age has done.

And now I can finally say:

Wow. What an unforgettable process and thank you to everyone who helped make it one!

Gabe and Dev

Gabe and Dev