Abbey and Detroit N4N’s First Album!

Members of  Paper Crowns after premiering their debut album. From left to right - Ashley, Joe, Ian, Abbey, Rhys & Fred

By Nia Shumake

Abbey is no ordinary teenager. 

Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist - Abbey

Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist – Abbey

She balances school and the pressures that come with applying to college with working, volunteering at the Notes for Notes, and as of recently- completing her freshman album along with her stellar band – Paper Crowns.

Abbey, the lead vocalist of Paper Crowns, completed the strenuous process of recording her project “Chasing Constellations” with her band mates Ashley, Joe, Ian, Rhys and Fred one Tuesday afternoon at the Detroit N4N studio. They all seemed both relieved and excited for the recording process to end. Abbey, in particular, had previously recorded backing tracks and scratch vocals for several weeks after volunteering in the studio teaching youth guitar lessons. It was inspiring watching her wear the two hats of being a mentor and then an artist. However, on this day, she would blossom not only as a singer-songwriter, but as a producer. Although it was obvious that Sexton was a musician, it was to our amazement that she could wear the hat of producer as well, with the advice of Rhys- her electric guitarist.

Paper Crown's CD table from the Chasing Constellations album release event.

Paper Crown’s CD table from the Chasing Constellations album release event.

Throughout the session, we spent time changing a cello’s legato to pizzicato, working on sound dynamics and taking out backing tracks that were not beneficial to the overall sound of the project. Abbey truly has the gift of thinking in sound. Yet, in all of this it was not just her musical aptitude and ability to multitask that stood out, but her willingness to create. She is like most artists- a perfectionist. Oftentimes, artists are so anxious to create a finished work, whether it be published or recorded, that tiny details or minuscule mistakes are overlooked. Her attentiveness to small details is incredible. In preparation for Paper Crowns’ album release show, she and area director Charity Ward worked after hours on multiple occasions in efforts of perfecting tracks and achieving the perfect mix.

Abbey performing her original songs at Paper Crown's album release event.

Abbey performing her original songs at Paper Crown’s album release event.

It was incredibly fulfilling listening to Paper Crowns’ finished record, knowing how hard Sexton had persevered until its completion. Our Detroit team, is honored to have played a role in the production of Sexton’s first album and especially grateful for all of the volunteer hours that Abbey has put in over the course of this past year.

We are looking forward to hearing more from Paper Crowns in the future, and excited to keep working with Abbey!

Stream “Chasing Constellations” below!

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!

Looking Both Ways w/ Olivia Millerschin; from Classical to Contemporary

Olivia Millerschin is a multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter who has toured the country with her new sophomore album “Look Both Ways”. Her album cover artwork puts you in the mind of Francis Cugat, the graphic artist for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic “The Great Gatsby” and while she humbly expresses her appreciation of novel writers, she remains a graceful songwriter. Nonetheless, she was well equipped for the students at the Detroit Notes For Notes™ (N4N) Studio, as she’s been volunteering with us for two years. Originally trained for opera, with experience on Broadway, Olivia easily related to our classically trained Detroit School of Arts singers. She harnessed her classical training into a contemporary style much like they are learning to do.

IMG_0474The N4N songwriters and Olivia set out to rewrite Motown’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, from the perspective of ex-lovers. The youth were given much creative control and raved about their writing experience with Olivia. At a glimpse, the session highlighted the student’s excitement to vent, while remaining creatively autonomous. After all, they had a long day at school and already written in their journal were lyrics to be conjured to melodies. Renita and Shaunell were very interested in providing the vocal arrangements, harmony, and call and response to the song with Olivia’s help.


Initially, Millerschin ran an exercise similar to that of last Monday’s Guest Instructor Antea’s, but while Shelton emphasized the art of storytelling, Olivia began rewriting the Motown song immediately with the students. We found that both instructors’ methods of creating music were different, but very much so beneficial to our singer-songwriters.

Thank you so much Olivia for you continued support of N4N Detroit! We are looking forward to strengthening our partnership with you!




This is Charity. She is Detroit.

unnamedCharity Ward grew up in a Detroit neighborhood very similar to the home of Notes for Notes. Homeschooled with 3 siblings, Charity developed a competitive edge that would make her stand out and an unharnessed drive to succeed.

By day, Charity is Detroit’s Notes for Notes Program Director and Area Director for Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans. By night, Charity is an amazing R&B/Soul Singer Songwriter. All day every day, Charity’s vibe is as electric as her gravity defying hair and her heart as beautiful as her caramel skin.

Take last Tuesday for example:

11:00 am: Charity the Artist performed at DIME for the President of Republic Records and Nick Cannon to showcase up and coming musical talent in Detroit. Charity opted to sing her original song Pretty as it is upbeat, hopeful and very much alive by nature – which is how she views Detroit. It’s a song that inspires people to sing along. To move together. To be part of the action in a positive way.

This is Charity. She is Detroit.

2:00 pm: Charity the Area Director of N4N Detroit stood on stage in Alliyah Hall inside the Detroit School of Arts. She offered a dynamic presentation on the rich history and impact of Motown. A presentation that started with DSA students lounging in their chairs, and ended with them leaning forward to find out more. At the conclusion, Charity announced open auditions for youth to participate in Motown Mix – a collaborative project supported by the Esther Berry Gordy Bullock Foundation. An opportunity for young Detroit musicians, producers, songwriters and singers to contribute to the rebirth of Motown – to take a song that was and turn it into a song that is. The students surrounded Charity after her inspirational presentation. They couldn’t get enough.

This is Charity. She is Detroit.

6:00 pm: Charity the Program Director of N4N Detroit was inside the Notes for Notes Studio sharing her artistic talents to teach a youth girls’ ensemble Who Would Imagine a King by Whitney Houston for the upcoming Christmas program at S.A.Y. Detroit Play Center. They learned the song quickly and sang it beautifully. She said their conviction gave her chills.

This is Charity. She is Detroit.




Look Both Ways

Olivia Millerschin Shines Both On and Off Stage

Singer/songwriter Olivia Millerschin has been a driving force behind the success of Notes for Notes Detroit’s first year of operation. After stopping by for an introductory visit only a month after opening in October, 2015, Olivia jumped right in to make a positive impact through music.

Along with offering regular ukulele and voice lessons, Olivia has led and participated in impactful musical projects to engage with the youth of Detroit. Last December, she recruited Real Feels to filmJingle Bell Rock and produce a holiday video featuring N4N youth who were just starting to participate in our programs. It proved to be a joyful “Lights, Camera, ACTION” launch of the exciting opportunities present inside the Notes for Notes Studio.

After working with and getting to know Olivia, drop-in youth started to become regular youth. These regular youth began to bring their friends and soon sessions inside the Studio were booked in advance. As a result, N4N staff was able to pinpoint the musical interests of our youth to recruit qualified volunteers for program instruction.

In June, Olivia supported N4N during a period of staff transition by showing up daily to help train and assist Program Director Charity Ward. Since then, Charity and Olivia have continued to work together in amazing ways. They partnered with Hospice Angels Foundation to lead a songwriting session for their Good Grief camp. And most recently, Charity. opened for Olivia’s “Look Both Ways” record release show that also benefitted Notes for Notes.

Olivia Millerschin in Nash

N4N is very lucky to have Olivia as part of our team. While she’s spent most of her time in Detroit’s Studio, she also stopped by for a visit with Nashville’s N4N youth while touring through town for her show at Exit/In with The Voice winner Sawyer Fredericks.

With amazing talent and a kind, generous heart, Olivia Millerschin embodies the qualities of the kind of artist N4N works to produce inside our studios each and every day.

N4N: Turning Nightmares into Dreams

When Javier isn't entertaining us in the Notes for Notes Studio, he 's certain to be found chasing another set of dreams on the Stafford Football Field at Say Detroit Play Center. Also, a big thanks to Xenith, for keeping this songwriter's head safe!

Written by: Charity Ward, N4N Detroit Program Director

Notes for Notes employs a no censorship policy to allow its members an outlet to express themselves in an authentic and unfiltered manner. While youth are not lyrically restrained, N4N staff members offer constructive criticism in efforts of producing their best work.

Recently, Detroit Studio member Javier wrote a song about a nightmare with several violent references. Program Director Charity challenged Javier to revisit his lyrics and remove any lines that weren’t a reflection of his real life. He came to the conclusion that the violent lyrics would not showcase his true self and opted to remove them from the song.

Instead, Javier reminisced on the crazy things that have actually happened in his dreams to create a spooky and entertaining song called “Bad Dream”. Through the writing process Javier learned about hyperbole and metaphors. He also broadened his imagination and vocabulary while writing lines like:

I fell off a cliff, then I turned into a hieroglyph.”

When Javier isn't entertaining us in the Notes for Notes Studio, he 's certain to be found chasing another set of dreams on the Stafford Football Field at Say Detroit Play Center. Also, a big thanks to Xenith, for keeping this songwriter's head safe!

When Javier isn’t entertaining us in the Notes for Notes Studio, he ‘s certain to be found chasing another set of dreams on the Stafford Football Field at Say Detroit Play Center. Also, a big thanks to Xenith, for keeping this songwriter’s head safe!

“A tarantula recorded me with all 8 of his phones.
Probably going to end up with a thousand broken bones.”
Javier’s lyrical adventure concludes when he wakes up in his bed and returns to reality. A reality in which he very proudly debuted his original song “Bad Dream” live for an audience full of excited peers at the Say Detroit Play Center Halloween Party.

Listen to “Bad Dream” here: