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”

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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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The Motown Mix Review

JoJo, Ivon and Renita performing their reworking of
Singer, Dewaun, preparing for his verse in "I Wish".

Singer, Dewaun, preparing for his verse in “I Wish”.

Eddie and De'Jah rehearsing "I Wish". Stevie Wonder's version was about wanting rewing the hands of time. Their version was about wanting to speed them up!

Eddie and De’Jah rehearsing “I Wish”. Stevie Wonder’s version was about wanting rewing the hands of time. Their version was about wanting to speed them up!

On a Friday evening hours after the studio’s regular hours had ended, I felt myself holding back tears. The participants of the Motown Mix project and I had just finished our final rehearsal and this group of teens had evolved from youth participants into members of what felt like a creative family. We had gotten into the habit of rehearsing for twice as many days a week and for twice as long in efforts to put on an amazing show at Detroit’s Hard Rock Cafe, and at the end of what was a trying but rewarding process, I remembered their auditions six months before and the goosebumps I felt on my skin when I imagined them making music in the N4N studio. This experience had truly come full circle. The 13 Motown Mix participants had learned so much about Motown, become friends, learned to respect, celebrate and collaborate with one another, and began to identify as songwriters when they thought they’d only be singing, and as producers when they thought they’d only be playing.

Youth intern Renita introducing the first act.

Youth intern Renita introducing the first act.

The following Sunday, the youth performers were anxiously humming the lyrics and melodies to Motown classics around the Hard Rock Cafe and before we knew it the room was filled to standing room only capacity with N4N staff, volunteers, and the proud family and friends of the night’s headliners. Just before the show began, Hard Rock’s speakers filled the room with the Motown Mix Playlist – songs featuring classic Motown samples the producers had worked on alongside production mentor Dennis Mars. Our drummer Destin’s eyes widened upon realizing what was playing and he proudly said, “That’s us!!”

3 out of 4 of the Motown Mix Band Josh, Destin and Kevin (left to right), Allen not pictured.

3 out of 4 of the Motown Mix Band Josh, Destin and Kevin (left to right), Allen not pictured.

The stage was soon occupied by a band fully comprised of high school students that played impeccably to the voices of the Motown Mix singers and songwriters. Together they performed their original ode to self love “Alright” then their lyrical and musical rearrangements of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” and The Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye”.

Shaunell and Ivon who performed "Every Little Bit Hurts" by Brenda Holloway and "All I Do" by Stevie Wonder during the "Ladies of Motown Medley"

Shaunell and Ivon who performed “Every Little Bit Hurts” by Brenda Holloway and “All I Do” by Stevie Wonder during the “Ladies of Motown Medley”

After a few songs, N4N’s faithful volunteer, Motown Mix mentor and brilliant artist Olivia Millerschin performed some of her originals and a beautiful rendition of the Temptation’s “My Girl” that the crowd blissfuly sang along with her. After a passionate delivery of the “Ladies of Motown Medley” by a few of Motown Mix’s special girls, it was my turn to perform a set of my own.  In the midst of performing my originals and working a little “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder in, I was holding back tears again as I looked to my right and saw the youth artists cheering me on as I’d earlier done for them.

N4N volunteer and artist Olivia Millerschin performing a set of originals at the Motown Mix Review.

N4N volunteer and artist Olivia Millerschin performing a set of originals at the Motown Mix Review.

Detroit N4N program director Charity performing a set of originals at the Motown Mix Review.

Detroit N4N program director Charity performing a set of originals at the Motown Mix Review.

The show concluded with warm and encouraging remarks from Motown’s own Robin Terry (who gave us the initial charge to lead a collaborative project between N4N and the Motown Museum) as the youth took their final bows and received their swag bags full of classic Detroit snacks and goodies from the Motown Museum and Hard Rock Cafe.

Motown Museum's Robin Terry making final remarks.

Motown Museum’s Robin Terry making final remarks.

All Motown Mix participants receiving swag bags and taking their final bow.

All Motown Mix participants receiving swag bags and taking their final bow.

The next day, I expected the youth to take the day off to recover from their long weekend, but they all showed up  to the studio bursting with energy- recapping the day before. In that moment, I knew that the project was not only the most fulfilling and inspiring youth project I’d ever led, but a true success that had provided N4N Detroit a strong group of consistent, passionate, and talented teen artists.

Thank you to Robin Terry, Raina Baker and David Ellis with the Motown Museum, my amazing and supportive teammate Kristin Myers, our awesome partners at the S.A.Y Detroit Play CenterDetroit School of Arts, Hard Rock Cafe, The Future Project and mentors – Dennis Mars, Craig Shephard and Olivia Millerschin for all of your help in making this project and event a success!

Check out the Motown mix below!

Detroit Does Grammy Camp!

Notes for Notes teens Shaunell and Renita sharing their lyrics at the end of Grammy Camp

I was overjoyed when I heard Grammy Camp was coming to Detroit for the first time.

IMG_0428After quite a rough patch, Detroit is rising again, and national organizations have recognized the resilient spirit of our city that has never and will never die. Creative forces like the Detroit Institute of Music Education have planted their feet in Detroit’s rich soil to bring a bit of the music industry back to the city and to give our young people a real shot at being apart of it. The Notes for Notes studio rests in the heart of the city with a mission to produce tomorrow’s musicians and give Detroit’s youth exposure to equipment and opportunities that they would rarely encounter for free of charge.

FullSizeRender 9My work at Notes for Notes gives me the opportunity to not solely participate in the resurgence of Detroit’s art scene by being a home-based artist, but to also empower and develop our next generation of creatives. So, finding out that the Detroit staff would be helping facilitate Detroit’s first Grammy Camp on behalf of Notes for Notes was a complete honor. After months of planning alongside the Grammy Camp staff, Grammy Camp turned out to be an inspiring day of creativity and collaboration that wouldn’t have been half as awesome  without the help of DIME who provided their amazing facility, Marie and Liana Guerra from Cloverleaf Restaurant who provided a delicious lunch and Briony Hill from Starbucks who provided drinks and desserts.

Notes for Notes teens sharing their lyrics at the end of Grammy Camp

Notes for Notes teens sharing their lyrics at the end of Grammy Camp

Songwriters brainstorming on an original track

Songwriters brainstorming on an original track

Youth producers learning to navigate ProTools

Youth producers learning to navigate ProTools

Laura Donohue flew in from Nashville to lead the singers, Greg Chin flew in from Miami to lead the production crew and our nearby neighbor, Anne Heaton, came in from Ann Arbor to lead the songwriters. After a full day of learning and working together, the youth concluded the day with a showcase performing rearrangements of popular songs, lyrics they’d began working on to the beat the producers created and original songs about quite original topics – like hunger and their love of food!

We are truly grateful for the visit Grammy Camp made to Detroit and for the valuable insight you shared with our youth!

We hope this was the first of many more!

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!

MSU and N4N: Big Ten Floor Champs!

Photo Credit: Arturo Rodriguea

Passion is defined as a strong and barely controllable emotion. It’s a word full of inspiration. A feeling better demonstrated than described. A driving force that may slow down at times, but never fully stops.

Outside of my children, I’ve been passionate about two careers in my life. As such, I had to find a way to make them intersect because that’s the only way life would make sense:

20 years ago, I was a member of the Michigan State University Women’s Gymnastics Team. No matter what, I wear that badge with the utmost of pride and honor. Because once you’re a Spartan Gymnast, you are guaranteed loyal teammates for life. Not friends… TEAMMATES.

3 years ago, I began to work with Notes for Notes. It was a baby of an organization at the time, and I could tell it was in need of some serious national support. I immediately reached out to my Spartan teammates and asked for help. I called Linder about Ventura, Chrissy about Dallas, Bri about Detroit, Leen about Portland, Polly about Austin, Eileen and Lindsay about Brooklyn, Erin with questions about Kalamazoo, and Lori about Nashville.

Then I called my coach Kathie in East Lansing. “Kath – I work for this amazing non-profit. Free youth music studios. Can we make you some floor music?”

I was giddy when her answer was YES.

Enter Elena Lagoski – a powerhouse of a tumbler and rockstar of a dancer. N4N had just been offered a very special opportunity.

I immediately called Will Flores in Nashville – N4N Lead Producer, Program Director and student alumni. Will flew to Detroit’s N4N Studio inside the SAY Detroit Play Center to meet with Elena in person to get the exact feel for the music that would inspire her to perform her best.

Elena, Will and assistant coach and choreographer, Nicole Curler, collaborated in front of the production station for hours – talking, counting, adding beats, dancing, then subtracting beats.

I was the only person who fully understood the level of artistic and athletic talent present in the room:

Elena the gymnast. Will the producer. Nicole the choreographer.

As the structure of her intense floor music began to take shape, I couldn’t help but predict:

WOW. THIS IS GOING TO BE BIG.

And was it ever. After a season full of unexpected twists and turns, public controversy and scandal that would make anyone want to run and hide, Elena took the floor at The Big Ten Championships with the weight of the world on her shoulders. With pressure coming at her from every direction, the next 1:30 would determine her ability to dig deep, focus and conquer. Aware this might be the last floor routine of her life, Elena took a deep breath and put on a smile.

It was game time for this young woman with a Spartan heart.

Congratulations, Elena Lagoski, 2017 Big Ten Floor Champion!

Your strength is incredible. Your passion is inspiring.

Thanks for letting Notes for Notes be just a small part of your team.

Written by:
Kristin (Peugeot) Myers
MSU Spartan 1996-2000

Photo Credit:
Arturo Rodriguez

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.

 

 

“Producing Tomorrow’s Musicians” : From the Studio to the Stage

Allen and Josh arrived at Detroit School of Arts’ Studio A confident, poised and unmistakably charismatic musicians. This was obviously not their first rodeo and they would soon wow the panel of judges as they seamlessly played Stevie Wonder’s “Do I Do” with friends and band mates Kevin and Destin. The entire quartet, with Josh’s colorful keyboard playing and Allen’s funky bass, was an instant and unanimous “yes” for the judges who were looking to find some of Detroit’s most gifted youth for the Notes for Notes and Motown Museum collaboration – Motown Mix. These young budding musicians were a perfect fit for the Motown Mix project, which would reimagine Motown classics through the collaborative efforts of DSA’s singers, songwriters, musicians and producers.

Check out a clip of their audition HERE !

Josh working on a Motown inspired track with production mentor Drew Schultz

Soon after auditions, the small group of the selected producers and musicians began frequenting the N4N studio, and Detroit program director Charity– who moonlights as a performing and recording artist- found herself in need of a band to accompany her for a gig. She realized she’d stumbled upon the perfect opportunity to bring her work of “Producing Tomorrow’s Musicians” from the N4N studio to the real stage. Josh and Allen would share their talents again in a new way- this time as Charity’s peers and fellow musicians.

Allen accompanying Charity on bass.

After spending one hour in rehearsal, the DSA 11th graders played skillfully and self-assured alongside Charity as she performed a few soulful originals at Detroit’s Carr Center. The audience applauded wildly upon learning that the band was comprised of local high school aged musicians. Josh and Allen were such crowd favorites that the next performer, saxophonist Gerald Dixon, requested them to accompany him during his set.

 

Notes for Notes is deeply grateful to the Motown Museum for the opportunity to develop young musicians through the lens of the Motown legacy and to Detroit School of Arts for sharing its brilliant youth.

We look forward to the magic that will be made by Josh, Allen and their fellow creators during the Motown Mix project.

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.

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Thank you, Elliott. You really are a star.

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

To be continued…