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Artist Perception & EP Highlight “The Valley’s Untold Love Story” by Lito

DSLate Checking in………


Here at the Detroit Studio, i had the opportunity to meet a young and motivated student by the name of Carlito Smith aka Lito.  I had the pleasure of engineering Lito’s entire EP here at the Detroit Studio and i found out that Lito had an amazing talent that most people don’t have. Introducing “The Valley’s Untold Love Story” by Lito………..


The Valley’s Untold Love Story is the tale of various obstacles I’ve encountered and realizations I have made about myself and life in the past year. I use the term “Valley” to explain where I feel my life has been leading up to now. I was on path to the mountain, but in order to get there I had to go through the low place where things aren’t as pretty. In my Valley I encountered Hate, Love, and Envy, which ultimately lead me to a place of tranquility (Tranquillo) where I was able to see the true Beauty in everything I encountered. As I stated before the Valley isn’t pretty, you will go through some things that either make you or break you, and one of those things for me was the passing of a childhood friend of mine in early 2017. At that point in my life it was hard to see the good in things, because I couldn’t understand why or how someone could take the life of a 16 year old in cold blood. After times like this I was able to extract the beauty in every situation that life threw at me. As I began to write I became more and more aware of what my purpose in life was, and as I began to walk in that purpose, doors began to open for me and I found myself transitioning from my place in the valley to a higher ground. “The Valley’s Untold Love Story” vividly depicts what I see in my mind as a young man from Detroit, Michigan. Around here everything isn’t always great and dandy, but if there was one thing i hope someone learns from this EP, I hope it would be for them to find the beauty that was placed within them, and to use that to build up others and inspire change, regardless of where they are from, what they look like, or how old they are, and to always remember there is Beauty in everything. -Lito


“The Valley’s Untold Love Story” by Lito is available on all digital media outlets.

Performance Highlight : The Detroit Parent Network

DSLate Checking in Once Again…..


On Saturday December 9th 2017, the Detroit Parent Network had a program at Cass Technical High School here in Detroit Michigan.  Im happy to announce that 3 of our kids from Notes for Notes Detroit were invited to sing an original song that they wrote at the event entitled “Lets Love”.  It was roughly 250 people there for the event, and our youth did extremely well and got nothing but positive feedback.  The Detroit Parent Network’s vision is to be a driving force by making sure positive conditions exist for Metro-Detroit children to thrive while specializing in resourceful, empathatic, dedicated and empowering values.


I wanna give a HUGE shoutout and thank you to my wonderful Notes For Notes kids (left to right) Ivon Harris, Eddie Gardner, and Lameya Appling for representing the company and the studio with class.  I am extremely proud of you all and most definitely looking forward to what the future will bring with you all here at Notes For Notes.


Signing Off



Volunteer Highlight – Dan Thomas

Photo by: Brian Sevald

DSLate Checking in Once Again!!

Over the past three weeks, our Detroit Studio has had the pleasure and opportunity to have Dan Thomas from the Detroit Pistons organization volunteer and teach percussion to all of our youth on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Dan surely had his hands full.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays we have our 3rd thru 8th graders in the studio.  Those are our younger kids and they come in the studio full of energy and ready for music.  Dan took the time out of his busy schedule to come to the studio and teach all of the kids percussion and THEY HAD A BLAST!!


Dan Thomas has played percussion instruments for 10 years; with experience in marching band, classical music, and jazz band.  His main focus while teaching at Notes For Notes has been the fundamental rhythm of playing the drums.  “One of the hardest things to grasp in playing the drums is the coordination of both hands and feet playing in rhythm.  So far the kids have done a great job in learning since I’ve been apart” Dan says.  We are extremely grateful for Dan coming to the studio and volunteering his time to teach the kids.  Dan is currently heading out of town to tour with the Harlem Globetrotters and we are excited for his opportunities and we fully love and support him here at Notes For Notes. Thank You so much Dan!!


Signing Off


“The Reason Class”

Hello everyone!! DSLate checking in again!!

When i was 3 years old my mother noticed that i would love to bang on the piano that we had in our house.  She quickly noticed that i couldn’t walk by the piano without playing it.  She quickly saw the interest and passion that i had even as a small child.  So when i turned 4, she put me in private piano lessons.  I took private piano lessons for 10 years until age 14.  In high school i played for all the choirs, all the bands, and i also took music theory and production classes.  While in high school a friend of mine introduced me to (what i consider) the best DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) thats on the market.  It was called “Reason” (version 2.5).  I quickly fell in love with the software as a junior in 2003 and ever since then I’ve been a dedicated Reason user.  Ive been with Reason since 2.5, and now i have Reason 10 that was just released within a month ago.

Reason is a digital audio workstation for creating and editing music and audio developed by Swedish software developers Propellerhead Software. It emulates a rack of hardware synthesizers, samplers, signal processors, sequencers, and mixers, all of which can be freely interconnected in an arbitrary manner. Reason can be used either as a complete virtual music studio or as a set of virtual instruments to be used with other sequencing software in a fashion that mimics live performance.  The release of Reason 10 was announced on September 22, 2017 and was released on October 25, 2017. It was advertised as Reason’s “biggest upgrade” ever and features five new devices as well as a new multi-gigabyte library of sounds and device patches. – Wikipedia

Im IN LOVE with everything that Reason is capable of so here at Notes For Notes Detroit, i have integrated “The Reason Class”.  Over the next few months, while working on “The DSA Project” (check previous blog) I will be teaching my high school students all of the components thats in Reason 10.  My goal is for all of my students to be able to produce, record, mix, and master their own music efficiently by the end of the class.  Learning reason can create a lot of oppurtunities for my students to benefiting from their work financially, all the way to easily learning different DAW’s simply because of the information that was taught in Reason can be easily translated into different programs.  I am extremely excited to see all of my high schoolers learning this program.  The hit records are ON THE WAY!!


Signing Off


NFN Detroit Artist Highlight

DSLate Checking In.

Hello to all!

Today I wanted to highlight one of the Notes For Notes youth.

IMG_2492“8phy Boy Dre” is an aspiring songwriter and rapper from Highland Park, Michigan.  He’s so determined that he takes 3 buses to get to the Eastside of Detroit where the Notes For Notes studio is.  He loves to write with other kids who attend Notes For Notes and he loves to consistently learn about his craft.

IMG_4363Detroit is not an easy city to live in because of the consistent crime that happens daily, but Dre manages to rise above his environment, remain in school and still grind it out in the studio as he constantly continues to come to Notes for Notes and be an asset in the studio environment.


We are very privileged to have Dre to be apart of Notes For Notes here in Detroit.  Be on the lookout for the Notes For Notes compilation album.  Dre will be the featured artist from Detroit!

Signing Off


“The DSA Project”

Hello to All!

This is DSLate checking in!

IMG_04282 weeks ago our high school kids started checking in here at the studio.  We were very excited to start with our high schoolers and get them off and running.  The majority of our high schoolers come from Detroit’s premiere high school for the performing arts commonly referred to as “DSA” (Detroit School of Arts).

They came in excited and ready to write, sing, produce, and perform.  So on the very first day..


IMG_0121We immediately produced a brand new track with 3 of the students playing live instrumentation on it, another student engineering the actual vocal session, and about 5 other students writing together to create the very first song of the year.  They were extremely excited, so I went home thinking, “Hmmmm, what could we possibly do this year to highlight the skills and talents that this group of kids already has while also fulfilling their desire to produce and write?”

IMG_0085BINGO!  Thats when “The DSA Project” idea came to me.  “The DSA Project” is a compilation album that will highlight the talents of every student that comes to Notes For Notes from DSA.  Each student will have their own individual song on the project that will be produced and/or written by the DSA students individually.  When the album is fully finished, we plan to have album release concert in the auditorium at DSA which will be marketed and self promoted in the school by the DSA students who produced and wrote the entire album here at the Notes For Notes studio.

We are extremely excited about the album and our target date will be right around Valentines Day 2018, so be on the lookout.

Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing: “The DSA Project” brought to you by Notes For Notes Detroit.

Signing Off…


My First Blog (Humbled and Excited)

Humility is a modest or low view of one’s own importance.

Excitement is a feeling of great enthusiasm and eagerness.

I’ve never been more humbled and excited  in my life than what I’ve experienced so far from working with Notes For Notes. My name is Dustin (DSLate) Slater and I am the new Program Director at the Notes for Notes Detroit Studio. I’ve been with the organization for almost 3 months now and what I’ve experienced has been life changing. These past few weeks at times I’ve had individual sessions, group sessions, and also more of a class setting of 13-20 kids all at once simply because of the overwhelming amount of students that signed up for music this year. I know I’m only supposed to have a set number of students but I hate the look on a child’s face when I have to turn them away from what they so passionately want to do.

SO I SAY “COME ON IN!”, and we have a blast.

Last week I had the opportunity to work with Jeremiah and Connor.


Connor is a junior who drives about 45 minutes from Pontiac Michigan just to come to the studio and volunteer. Jeremiah is a 7th grader whose love for creating music inspired me in ways unimaginable. These 2 students/creators come from 2 totally different backgrounds and still without any effort they came together and wrote a hook to a pop track that I loaded up in the digital audio workstation (DAW) Reason 9.5.


What came next after Jeremiah heard himself recorded on the actual song almost brought tears to my eyes.  After Jeremiah went into the booth with the help of another student…


Jeremiah sang his hook and then put the headphones on his writing partner’s ears to get her approval. Jeremiah then came out of the booth and heard his voice recorded on a song for the first time in his life and immediately the biggest smile you could ever imagine came across his face and he immediately lifted his hands up and started dancing to the music. At that point I felt like that was validation for me. I realized that I was working a job that gives me the opportunity to not only make a life long lasting impact on a child, but I was helping to change the world through music and expression.

This heartfelt moment was kind of the launching pad for me here at N4N. I promise to do my very best at impacting these kids on a daily. I honestly don’t consider what i do at this studio a job. I consider it as a privilege and passion to impact lives especially to this new generation of creators.


Signing Out With Love,



From Motown to the Big Easy

As a performing/recording artist who has always made it my personal mission to empower youth in creative, after-school program settings,

Notes for Notes is the perfect collision of two worlds that I always hoped to exist fully within.

So, naturally, working in my initial position as a program director in the Detroit studio was like a dream come true. I not only had a space and platform to create music everyday, I had the opportunity to do that work with youth from my hometown- from a community that is so precious to me.

Soon after I got my feet in the ground at the Detroit studio, I gained the opportunity to work with and travel to the Memphis, Nashville and New Orleans studios as an area director. As if Detroit’s musical legacy of Motown wasn’t enough, I would now have access to the youth artists creating in the cities where Country, Jazz and Blues were birthed!

Check out some photos of the amazing youth I’ve encountered creating/performing, and our awesome program directors doing what they do best in their cities and studios during my travels!

First, gotta show love to Detroit – my home studio. Here’s some of our amazing youth from the S.O.N.G project after a long and successful recording session. 

An impromptu lesson with Memphis guitarist David.

Enjoying Taylor Gayle’s set of originals at the BMI showcase in Nashville.

I’m a fan 🙂

Making friends with aspiring rappers/producers Monte and Tae in our South Nashville studio

South Nashville program director, Cam, teaching Monte and Tae production fundamentals.

Sitting in on a session with Nashville North program director, Will, and youth rapper King Lil C’Jay

Our Nashville East program director co-writing a song with Eric during a Songwriter’s Workshop

Youth artists ZuZu, Keeven and Tae presenting their song at a Songwriter’s Workshop in Nashville

Needless to say, visiting cities across the country with an immensely rich music history and working with the youth creating from their legacies is the icing on the cake of an already sweet situation 😉

Girls Rock Detroit: Obliterating Gender Biases In the Music Industry written by Nia Shumake

By Nia Shumake


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“Unlike a man [a woman] is never simply and gloriously a musician. She is a ‘female guitar player’ or ‘a female drummer’. Her gender precedes her” —-”Anonymous

     Gender Biases in the music industry has been prominent since the very beginning of time and in the last decade though the workplace has become heavily infiltrated in the business sector of the industry, female artists/musicians still struggle to earn the respect of their male counterparts. In 2015, Fusion found that performances by women only, contributed to only 26% of Billboard’s Top 40 and only 10% of the acts on the music festival circuit. According to the Women Audio Mission, only 5 % of people working in music production are women. Here at Notes for Notes we are intentional about providing opportunities to the demographic of our youth at the SAY PLAY Detroit center. We have an overwhelming group of young women who frequent the studio with interests in the music that range from voice, songwriting, production and learning to play instruments.

“We have an overwhelming group of young women who frequent the studio with interests in the music that range from voice, songwriting, production and learning to play instruments”


When Michigan-based musician, Melissa Coppola approached the Notes for Notes Detroit Staff with her vision to have our studio host her project Girls Rock Detroit, we knew it was what the music community needed and coincided with the values of our non profit. The summer camp is an accelerated course in creating music for girls from age 8 to 16. We hosted the musicians for the week of August 21st , and at 9:30 am each day, the youth worked writing and taking music courses in their respective room rotation/ band until 4:30 pm. The Board of Directors were anal about having women represented thus all classes were taught by women and each classroom was labeled with a popular female musician/producer. The sound of the young rock stars permeated the entire building as we heard a combination of drums clashing in one room and writers writing to chords in another.

     “The sound of the young rock stars permeated the entire building as we heard a combination of drums clashing in one room and writers writing to chords in another”

 By the end of the camp, the bands held a showcase concert for family and friends. Nonetheless, the impact that the camp had on the young musicians was phenomenal and challenged me to question the way in which many people often view artists. Often times when people see a woman who is into music they’ll assume that you are solely just a vocalist or a songwriter, when there are endless possibilities and plenty of gifted musicians that happen to women creating. It is our hope that this camp has inspired girls to consider creating music as a valid career choice. At N4N Detroit studio, we place emphasis on both representation and intersectionality. Furthermore we want our youth to feel empowered as though they have a right to be taken seriously pursuing music professionally both as female and at our studio POC. Hopefully this will challenge us to call our girls up higher and encourage them to do whatever they put their minds to accomplishing musically.

     “Hopefully this will challenge us to call our girls up higher and encourage them to do whatever they put their minds to accomplishing musically”

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Summer Song Series: A Review

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By Nia Shumake

     Light and love had illuminated Hard Rock Cafe, the night of Motown Mix. I was in awe of what had been accomplished by the youth over a couple of months–rewriting world renowned bops is not an easy task, and our youth handled this with grace making each song listenable and unique to a modern day Detroit experience. It was bittersweet, I being both overjoyed for the success of the showcase but also melancholy about the departure of brilliant youth who I wouldn’t see until the very end of the summer. Nonetheless, it was time to move on to next project.
    After, a debrief on the showcase we had just  under three short weeks to create an execution strategy for our newest project: Summer Song Series. It would encompass bringing incredible artists together to create original material with the final product, an EP.  We were excited and began brainstorming curriculum, programming & tools for registration as a means of personality and musical aptitude assessment. Because we wanted optimum results, our registration process was only a precursor to our first day of the series. Using a combination of Myer-Briggs, The Four Temperaments, and music taste we managed to create two separate groups of artists/producers. Strangely enough, we managed to get a type a “Voyage to India” fan with 15 personality types in the same group as a kid producer who wanted to create Jay Z  “4:44” vibes and a social butterfly Taylor Bennett fan. The youth were both anxious and excited to make magic.
File_000 (1)Our first try at jamming involved adding a song to J. Cole’s Born Sinner where Childish Gambino sang the hook. Though elated, it was obvious that the youth weren’t as vulnerable with their peers. Creativity is sacred and it takes courage to share work amongst strangers – I empathized. Much to my surprise by that Wednesday, writers came ready to work on original material for their fellow singer-songwriter Maia. The song was finished by the following Monday afternoon + and they are now working on more original music.
 I am constantly impressed with the array of talented youth that we’ve encountered at and the work that has continued to come out of our studio. We are simply a microcosm of all the city has to offer. Motown Mix was incredible, and it proves the capabilities of our Detroit youth. It set the bar for our studio and we as Detroit staff work at making our performances and material better. These kids are the quintessence of talent,  diligence and potential. I am amazed by their emotional intelligence, acceptance of constructive criticism and responding to the their life experiences with their art. I am honored to be apart of their musical journeys and look forward to all of the magic that will be made towards the very end.