A Colorful Music Palette: Jam Session with Ocean Park Standoff

Ocean Park Standoff makes a visit to Notes for Notes Detroit.

By Nia Shumake

When I learned that we had an upcoming artist visit from the pop group, Ocean Park Standoff , the band comprised of Pete Nappi, Ethan Thompson and Samantha Ronson, sister of the world renowned English producer/musician Mark Ronson, I thought to myself, how will the LA based pop group with English roots relate to our youth?  Charity and I, are both adamant about representation and relatability for our youth. So for me these questions constantly cross my mind in regards to studio programming. Our studio is predominantly Black and we serve youth in the Detroit and Metro-Detroit area from different socioeconomic statuses and backgrounds. But regardless of socio-economic status/background,

young artists need to see themselves.

Nonetheless, for the Detroiter and/or Black Detroiter experiences are not all monolithic, and the proof is in the history of our music scene being the catalyst for multiple genres ranging from Motown to Electronic. Through co-managing the studio, I’ve witnessed youth who aren’t just interested in pop culture’s hip hop, but often inquire about artists like Tribe Called Quest and J Dilla while simultaneously building appreciation for classical pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto. On the other hand, we have our crew of church kids that will belt out  Tasha Cobbs’ “For Your Glory” right after singing Jay Hawkins, “I Put a Spell on You”. This is all apart of the rich history in Detroit’s music scene and its remnants happen to be left in our youth. 

Samantha, Pete and Ethan of Ocean Park Standoff

Samantha, Pete and Ethan of Ocean Park Standoff

When I read in a Paper mag article from April that  Ocean Park Standoff enjoyed the release of EPs for the sake of expressing themselves in multiple genres, I felt a sense of relief.  I had confidence that they would understand the music that our youth loved. I knew there was an opportunity for true connection.

We value the power of creativity through collaboration and are overjoyed partnering with other creatives”


Singer JoJo performing a Corinne Bailey Rae song during the Jam Session

Singer JoJo performing a Corinne Bailey Rae song during the Jam Session

Before the group’s arrival that Friday, youth artists Renita, Jojo, Shaunell and Dre were present with a repertoire of songs prepared to perform for their guests. Meanwhile, Kevin worked in the back with producer, D Slate on sampling the group’s hit single, “Good News”. At the studio, we value the power of creativity through collaboration and are overjoyed to partner with other creatives. Therefore, our CEO Phil created an incredible platform for the youth and band to share their music via jam session. The keys and mics were free for all to pick up and add to their own sound to the environment.

Lyricist Dre freestyling during the jam session

Lyricist Dre freestyling during the jam session

Towards the the end of the session, Dre freestyled to music from his peers and managed to woo the LA band with his lyricism to their sound.

“I create because I have to.”

Renita and JoJo interviewing the members of Ocean Park Standoff at the Mojo in the Morning Broadcast Station

Renita and JoJo interviewing the members of Ocean Park Standoff at the Mojo in the Morning Broadcast Station



Up next was Renita and Jojo’s podcast interview with the group, tackling a plethora of topics for artist such as remaining relevant, versatility in musical genres and those moments where you wonder if you’ll ever create your best work again. The key was to keep creating, in the words of Ethan Thompson, “ I create because I have to”, something that felt so familiar to each person in the room. When they talked about musical influences, it was to myself and the students’ surprise that Ronson’s songwriting was inspired by both the lyricism of Hip Hop legends like Nas and Jay Z but also the enigmatic folklore poet, Leonard Cohen.

Then we approached the final moment of the artist visit when Kevin presented his work to  Samantha, Pete and Ethan. It was almost as if he took the room to church with his chords and bass line and we were all impressed, asking him to play the loop over and over again. Here we had mainstream singer-songwriters, an English American DJ, vocal jazz ensemble members and church kids all in one room and in creative synergy for the love of music. The visit was not exactly what I had expected.  

The language of music is both universal AND cultural, hence why the cliche metaphor “music is a bridge” can often fail to include those cultural intricacies, but that day the phrase rang true, and I saw the power of true collaborative creativity at work.

Thank you to Ocean Park Standoff for an awesome artist visit and thank you having such a colorful music palette!

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!




If You Can Sing, You Can Write Songs: Songwriting with Antea Shelton

Antea Shelton shared her expertise and experience in songwriting with the N4N youth artists.

Written by Nia Shumake

Monday was not an ordinary day for our Motown Mix singers and songwriters who frequent the Notes For Notes Detroit Studio to both study and recreate the “Motown Sound”. They experienced an enriching writing session with guest instructor, Antea Shelton, a Grammy nominated songwriter for Universal Music Group and artist at Detroit’s Original 1265 Records. Placing records with pop stars Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez and Justin Bieber, the young artists were floored by Antea’s musical achievements and eager to learn more of the craft.

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Tyonna and Joslyn sharing after a free write exercise.

 After discussing the defining key features of Detroit’s Motown Sound, the students serenaded Antea with a song they had written with Program Director Charity Ward entitled “Alright”. It was evident that juxtaposing these distinct sounds would set the atmosphere for sonic reinvention and cultivation. While many of our students grapple with identifying as singer-songwriters, Antea assured them,

“If you can sing, you can write songs.”

Eddie, Shaunell and Renita sharing their lyrics with the group.

She led an exercise that encompassed the art of storytelling which compelled them to be vulnerable in a group setting. This in itself was powerful for establishing rapport. It shed light on the students’  innermost feelings about teachers, past relationships and music; but what we found most intriguing was the revelatory aspect of the exercise that it simultaneously affirmed them as songwriters. It is our hope that this newfound mentorship between Antea and our students grows and also that they are fueled to expand their musicianship through the art of songwriting.

Spike Keeps Radio Real

When Spike, co-host of Detroit’s #1 morning radio show Mojo in the Morningshowed up with a box of Dunkin’ Donuts in hand, Notes For Notes youth knew they were in for a special night. Aware he’d be breaking the universal rule of NO FOOD OR DRINKS IN THE STUDIO, coffee was a must for Spike after an exceptionally long day of work that started before dawn at Channel 955 followed by Christmas shopping for his family. That box of donut holes was just as impressive as learning Spike has shaken the hands of influencers like President Barack Obama and Will Smith. The most impressive though? When he could sing the entire theme song of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air right along with our youth. Now that was cool!

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After an inspiring and informative group Q & A session, N4N podcasters went right to work asking Spike thought-provoking questions that required him to tackle an array of topics such as: the division sparked by the 2016 Presidential Election, today’s power of technology and his unequivocal love of Detroit.

Spike’s presence in the N4N Studio spoke volumes to our youth and made the pursuit of a radio career tangible and real to our students. The addition of the Mojo in the Morning sponsored broadcast station in Detroit’s studio has been such an effective teaching and learning tool that now every studio in the nation is equipped with a podcast station of its own. Thank you for your innovation and commitment to keep radio alive Mojo in the Morning and Crew! It’s working!

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We are forever grateful for our experience with Spike at the Notes for Notes studio. If you’d like to listen to more of the podcast you can access it HERE.



The N4N Fuss about Elliott Blaufuss

It was a special afternoon when singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Elliott Blaufuss stopped by Nashville N4N to share his abundance of knowledge and original music with our youth.
As he strummed guitar chords he originally learned from his father, Elliott belted out melodies and lyrics on subjects our youth could easily relate to – such as society’s obsession with technology and social media as well as a call to action to love those who are different.  

In a short amount of time, Elliott’s warm and soulful demeanor transformed an audience of fans into an audience of friends. 

After his performance, Elliott willingly offered the spotlight to N4N teen artists Stephen, John, and Cory who shared their own musical talents while performing for him. Elliott was impressed with John and Stephen’s knowledge of advanced jazz chords and shapes as they improvised over his newly released tune “Nothin Left To Do but Love” .

Then Elliott listened intently as Hip-Hop artist Cory shared a vulnerable song written about the loss of his grandfather. Creative conversation with youth left this pro artist feeling inspired:

“So what do you say, guys? How about we make a beat?” Elliott offered.

With Elliott on keys, Stephen and John on guitar and Program Director Will Flores leading the session as producer, the artists defied barriers of age, race, genre and experience to collaborate on a track for Cory to later add to with Hip-Hop cadences and R&B melodies. The presence of creativity, talent and potential in the N4N studio inspired Elliott to offer to return as a mentor. And Elliott’s positive energy inspired these youth artists to get right to work on this collaboration track so they can share it with him soon.


Thank you, Elliott. You really are a star.

Can’t wait to introduce you to N4N Detroit youth this spring!

To be continued…

Mojo in the Morning Makes a BIG Difference!

It was a great day at Notes for Notes when Detroit’s #1 talk show host Mojo in the Morning visited the Studio to hang with youth and work on song intros at the podcast station donated by Mojo himself.

11 year-old Ni’Asia was especially excited to meet him, and even confessed, “I didn’t have butterflies about working with you, Mojo. I had worms. And they were crawling around in my stomach!!!” But work together they did, and they had a great time doing it! Click HERE to catch a glimpse of the fun!

During his Q & A session, youth were surprised when Mojo admitted he still gets nervous during the peak of each show from 7 to 8am because over one million listeners are tuned in. During that hour, he’s always concerned about the content of the show. He wonders if what they’re talking about is important enough to keep listeners from changing the channel?

img_0155The next day on air, Mojo raved about his volunteer experience at N4N and SAY Detroit Play Center as a whole. He even featured Ni’Asia’s song intro to Beyonce’s “Halo” during his broadcast at 7:45am – the most critical hour of the show! Mojo recognized Ni’Asia’s hard work inside the Studio mattered. It mattered enough to share her voice with over one million people!

It was a dream come true for Ni’Asia. She was overcome with emotion when Program Director Charity Ward played it for her later that afternoon when she arrived at the Studio. Do your heart a favor and click HERE to watch her priceless reaction.

Thank you so much, Mojo, for not only donating top-of-the line broadcast gear, but also for your valuable time spent in the Studio to make a real difference, and the kindness of your heart to help share our story. You are an amazing community partner and we are so grateful for your generosity!

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.





The rock band NEEDTOBREATHE visited the Notes for Notes Detroit studio after their Meadow Brook stop of Tour de Compadres 2016. The fact this translates to “Tour of Friends” is fitting as Bear, Bo, Seth, Josh and Randall volunteered their time to truly make friends with N4N youth, staff and local donors in attendance. Between breathtaking acoustic performances of original songs off their H A R D L O V E album, the band spent an entire hour talking back and forth with youth to share musical experiences and lessons learned on the road.

The band members spoke candidly with youth, admitting that pursuing their passion is not always easy. While the life of a rockstar often looks glamorous, lots of tough sacrifices have to be made along the way as theyNEEDTOBREATHE N4N Detroit miss their loved ones, especially their kids, at home. Our youth appreciated their honesty and really dug in with insightful questions to find out more. An obvious connection was made during the powerful Happiness – with youth singing along and snapping, because according to Bear, that’s “much cooler than clapping.”

Youth were especially intrigued when they learned band leaders Bear and Bo Rinehart are brothers, and bassist Seth Bolt their best friend since childhood.  The exciting fact they now tour the world together to share their story through song was very inspiring. The incredible bonds of family and friends these musicians share affirmed the value in Notes for Notes’ dedication to forming positive relationships through music.

While it may have been true our youth didn’t know much about NEEDTOBREATHE prior to their visit, it’s a fact they’ll never forget them now. Thanks for taking the time to get to know us, NTB. Much appreciated.


Shannon Murphy: Up in Here, Up in Here!

Written by Charity Ward, N4N Detroit Program Director

Notes for Notes celebrated a whole lot of “Girl Power” recently when Shannon Murphy visited Detroit’s Studio inside S.A.Y. Detroit Play Center.

Shannon, radio host of Channel 955’s Mojo in the Morning show, shared her dynamic and infectious energy with the Detroit N4N youth. Youth members interested in a career in radio broadcasting listened intently as she answered questions like: What did you study in college? Did you always want to be a radio host? What celebrity meeting left you the most star struck? Shannon offered a great deal of information on her journey as a DJ and what a day in her life – juggling motherhood and national radio broadcasting – is like. She also encouraged youth that with hard work and dedication, they too could have careers in radio.

After Shannon’s Q&A session, she visited the Mojo in the Morning Broadcast Station and was featured as a guest co-host on Ni’Asia and Anyla’s podcast entitled “Black Girls Rock the Radio Show”.

Show Segments include:

What’s Up World?: Current Events
Tea Party: Celebrity News
Blackboard: 5th Grade School Updates
Boy, Bye: Boy Talk
New Jams: New Music Premiere and Discussion
Up in Here, Up in Here: Special Guest Interviews

Shannon chatted on-air with these young aspiring radio hosts about the creepy clown fad, the Presidential election, First Lady Michelle Obama’s sense of fashion, and discussed some of the artists that had been nominated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Ni’Asia and Anyla even developed their own version of Shannon’s famous daily segment “Dirty on the 30” and gave Shannon 30 seconds to share her unrehearsed thoughts on pre-selected topics ranging from her daughter, Lucy Grace, to her obsession with cupcakes.

Shannon offered pointers on engaging with live audiences and gave the girls her best advice to always be themselves. Shannon plans to come back to mentor more youth interested in radio broadcasting and we can’t wait for her return!

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.