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ParisParis (left) came into the studio with a face full of tears. She refused to tell anyone what was going on with her. She just wanted to be left alone with a lap top and a sheet of paper. I made sure she got her own private space.

The next day Paris ran straight to the control room and quietly said in my ear, “I want to do a song for my brother.” She opened up to me in the studio that afternoon about what she was going through. Her brother was fatally shot and left for dead on the street. Paris and a friend found him on the ground on their way home from school.

The song made wrote him is spectacular. Her friend, Mar’Kessia, actually was recording her from the control room. I left the room for about an hour. When I returned, they were working on the song together in the control room.

Paris is very open in her music and uses the studio as a platform to let off steam and energy. She also has a fun song called “Put Some Respek On My Name”. Every time it comes on in the studio, every student knows it word for word. Paris is already starting a very diverse catalogue of music. I look forward to sharing the song she is recording about her brother in our next blog!

Lessons w/ The Piano Gym

ClaudeEveryday at the Ira Samelson Boys and Girls Club, the Director, Gwendolyn Woods has the students come in at 4pm to complete their homework before moving on to other activities. Members of the Club know that they cannot come into the studio before they finish their homework. Well, we have the privilege of having the Founder of The Piano Gym, Mr. Claude Hines, come in to instruct some of the students but we can only get him for an hour, from 4pm-5pm, on Mondays before he has to start his program.

Bricia is a 5th grade student who has expressed that she has been wanting to learn how to play the piano for quite some time. Lots of students claim this, but she goes the extra mile to make sure she is available every Monday. Bricia makes sure to Complete her homework before she arrives at the Club so that she can skip the study hour and have 1 on 1 time with Mr. Hines. Her Club leader has already grown accustomed to her completing her homework and pre approves her coming to the studio.

Bricia can now sight read and play the basic piano notes. She has started to take assignments from Mr. Hines to complete before his next visit. As the Director of this Notes for Notes branch, I want to learn how to play the keys myself and Bricia does a great job explaining to me what she has learned from Mr. Hines.

We look forward to seeing what comes of her dedication to learning the craft! Great job, Bricia! And to Mr. Hines and The Piano Gym, we are so grateful for your time and talent. We look forward to your return each week!

The Cash Master (5th grade Rapper)

Cash Master Nicholas Brown is a 5th grader at Grahamwood Elementary. As an artist, Nick feels like he is a master at rapping and headed for succe$$. Fittingly he calls himself the Cash Master! I’d say he is on his way to being a master indeed.  Nick has a natural ability to come up with unique melodies on the spot. In addition, his confidence is already sky high. He is noticeably proud of his work because every time we play his song in the studio he runs out to get his friends so they can enjoy it with him.

The Cash Master (Nick) comes into the studio everyday asking if he can record a song that he wrote at school or at home the night before. One particular day, he came in after a frustrating day at school and asked to record what he had written in class. Nick got in trouble in class for having to be told to sit down and stop talking several times. It irritated him enough for him to write about it. Check these 5th grade lyrics out:

Everyone’s doing the same thing, But what if everyone is wrong

I let my heart out in this booth, I hope that you feeling this song

Keep getting kicked out of class, Can’t sit still for too long

Why they keep picking on me, Mama told me to be strong

Really I’m trying to behave, The teacher work me like a slave

My grandma is sleep in her grave , She always told me to be brave

So grandma I do this for you, I just don’t know what to do

You know I’ll always stay true, Even though life can get blue

Kay Shakur Live

Miracle Diggs

Kay Shakur did her first LIVE PERFORMANCE (CLICK HERE TO SEE IT!)  last Saturday at her neighborhood block party. It was such a special moment for her. Her mother, brother, sisters, and cousins came out to support. There was a large crowd of families from the community, most who know Kayla; just not as a rapper. I was able to formally introduce myself to the community and talk about Notes for Notes.

I re-introduced Kayla to her own community as “Kay Shakur”! The crowd roared with excitement. Kayla told me she was nervous multiple times leading up to the performance. She did not appear to be considering backing down, but her palms were sweaty for sure. I’d say she was more anxious than nervous. When she grabbed the mic, she only sounded nervous while introducing herself. When the beat dropped, she started rapping as if she was, as she stated in the song, the “best freshman in Memphis”. It was a powerful and captivating performance that took her family and friends by surprise. I was so proud of her. I was even more excited to see the reaction of her friends that are in the studio with her everyday. They were an excellent support system and made Kayla feel like the superstar she is becoming. I can’t wait until she completes her mixtape.

After Kayla’s performance, the interest in the studio spiked. All of a sudden students are asking me how they can get in the studio. Moreover, parents and teachers were approaching me to see how they could get their children to the studio to learn how to record music. We were able to get 2 new volunteers, one of which was the DJ spinning records at the block party.

Like Father, Like Daughter

Kayla and Dad

True story. Kayla’s (aka Kay Shakur) dad came to the studio to hear what everyone has been telling him first hand. His name is Phil. Phil came to the studio to see what the craze about his baby girl on social media is all about. Little did we know, Kayla’s dad is a rap artist himself he says. Phil barged into the studio as if he owned the place. He wanted to let his presence be known at the place where his daughter spends most of her time after school.

Anyways, Kayla and her dad came into the control room to have a seat on the couch and hear some of Kayla’s music. We started her song called “Listen”. Kayla started the song off quite confidently. By the end of the song, Phil, her dad, has a face full of tears. He can’t believe how much his daughter was just like him. Their mannerisms were the exact same.

Phil went on to speak about how she got her passion for music from him. He started freestyling at after her part was over. I suggested that he go in the booth and lay down a verse on his daughter’s song. He did not hesitate. The result was a cathartic verse in which he rapped about how much he loves his daughter and her siblings. It got really emotional when he started to explain to his daughter why he has not been around for the majority of her life. He was able to put it in the song all from freestyling! He was very impressive.

Kayla will never forget this moment. The studio was shut down for a full 2 hours while they spoke to each other on and off the song. It was an incredible moment.

“I know life wasn’t sweet, I know life wasn’t funny/

[You] didn’t make it with mom, but I know yall both love me/

Its dark outside now, but one day will be sunny…”

There was not a dry eye in the studio. Honestly, I am crying right now as I type this. Be on the lookout for Kay Shakur’s mixtape coming soon!

Awesome Volunteers

Last week, the highlight of the week was our newest volunteer, Morgan Marvar!

Morgan came in an immediately meshed with our high school students. To test his credibility, 2 girls (Kayla Smith and Miracle Diggs) demanded that he play some of his own music. Everyone in the studio was blown away and altogether requested that he play another one of his songs. The fascination was not one sided. Morgan fell in love with the space and the students as soon as he stepped foot in the Jam Room. As the Memphis Program Director, when seeking out mentors and volunteers, I never really know how well a potential mentor/volunteer will fit in with the students and the program. However, so far, we are 4 for 4. Shout out to Kirby Brewer, Terrica Clayton, and Kerry Diamon Holliday. Thank y’all so much. We captured a clip of Morgan Marvar engaging with some high schoolers. He’ll be teaching us songwriting, producing, and guitar. This moment was special. Check out the clip here: #Magicmoment

First Week Success!



This first week of school was so fun at Notes for Notes in Memphis. We had a bunch of tours by both prospect volunteers and students. We also had 6 brand new students to sit under our volunteer Kirby Brew for guitar lessons. This group was really into it. We are going to split the class up next week so Kirby can deliver even more focused instruction. These young musicians want to learn! Kirby is diligent and consistent. The students really appreciate him and look forward to the next lesson!

Closed for the Week

Students are not allowed into the club this week as they were not last week. Although there is a lot less life in the studio, the director and several volunteers are able to get together to plan awesome fall and spring semesters for the young musicians. This week we will be reaching out to students who specifically want to come in the studio to get something off their chests. This idea was sparked by a senior at Whitehaven High School claims he wants to find a way up here everyday just to let off steam. He comes to Notes for Notes before any other studio because he says he can rely on the consistency of it being open (Ironically, we are closed this week). Our volunteer videographer, Daniel Mcgarry of 901 Films, put together a short commercial of Tim recording his album. Click here to see it. As you can see, we have lots of fun in this studio! Looking forward to a great year!

Word is Spreading!

IMG_3909Word is spreading about Notes for Notes in the City of Memphis. We are so thankful that Daniel McGarry of 901 Films came in to film us in action. There are already talks about music videos and other sorts of film projects that he is looking forward to helping us out with. Daniel engages the young musicians very well. Instead of just filming us, he takes the time to suggest what we should do to create a cool scene. Also, not only does he expose the students to state of the art equipment, but he teaches us how to operate it as well. Often times, a student who may love music but may not be skilled in that department may learn how to maximize the art of his or her peers with captivating visuals as a way into the music industry.

IMG_1294These youth have been abstaining from playing the many guitars in the studio because they do not know how to play. That all changed this week when volunteer Kirby Brew came to give us our first lesson. The students enjoyed Mr. Kirby very much. Kirby works with youth in another part of Memphis, so this was natural for him. He taught them the “Open E” as well as the C, E, and G chords. They students practiced these chords everyday since he left. In fact, they have even taught two additional students on their own (without Kirby). We cannot wait for lesson #2 with Kirby!


Collaboration Everywhere

IMG_3840This week during our songwriting sessions, we writing lyrics to some Motown sample beats created by Notes for Notes students in Detroit! We can’t wait to share the collaboration. Aubrey Massey really poured her heart out on one of these tracks. She is calling her song “Same Struggles”.  One of the lyrics reads,

“You may think I’m still a mess, but God makes sure I stay blessed.”

Take us to church Aubrey!! She seemed to channel their energy when writing this song. In fact, the music she was writing to was different that what everyone else in the room was writing to. This is why you see he isolated with headphones on. She entered her own world, and poured her heart out. Aubrey says she is inspired by Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj.


IMG_3839 Kam has taken a break from producing the beat tape (with Miracle) to focus more on engineering. Pictured on the right is our new volunteer, Kerry Holliday, who is a producer, engineer, and saxophone player. Kerry and Kam have been building rapport this week in the studio . Their chemistry is natural, and their sessions are very productive. We also had a new singer come in named Tim. If you look closely, you can see him in the booth (behind the glass)! Tim is not from this particular area of Memphis, but he was very personable, talented, and humble. I look forward to him coming around more often and setting an example.   #communitycollaboration #magicmoments