“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.

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!

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!

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!