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A Great Start to the New Year

 

The last few weeks before 2018 rolled in were some of the busiest of the season. The holidays had everyone in a good mood. The studio was filled with new members, the clubhouse was full of cheer, and the fresh snow outside had everything beginning to look like Christmas.

 

While most of the youth at the club were excited about giving and receiving presents, a select group of Notes For Notes members were even more excited about giving amazing performances for the 2017 Winter Talent Show.Copy of Music Series (6)

The showcase took place December 28th inside the West Side Boys & Girls Club. While a few of our contestants were unable to make it the day of the event, the 12 performers in the showcase all brought their A-game and put on an incredible show. Each performance was eligible for 1 of 3 audience-chosen grand prizes. Our audience members received voting ballots with each performance listed to easily make the choice for best performance.

The 3 winning performances at the 2017 Winter Talent Show were “Down To Earth,” by Justin Bieber performed by Lay Doh Moo (14), an up-tempo drum solo by King General Thompson (11), and “Flexin’,” an original hip hop song by William “Lil Swagger” Bailey (14).

General Thompson, William Bailey, and Lay Doh Moo take home the gold record awards for their performances.

General Thompson, William Bailey, and Lay Doh Moo show off their gold record awards for their performances in the showcase.

The week before the showcase took place really brought out the best in our members. It’s hard to remember a stronger display of community in the studio than our final day of rehearsals for the showcase. Each studio member, while knowing they were in competition with each other, was encouraging, respectful, and quick to offer advice. It was clear to me that these kids really wanted the best for each other and for the show.

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We had a great turnout the day of the show with many new faces in the audience. Friends, family, and Boys & Girls Club members all came together for an hour of musical performances that couldn’t have gone more smoothly. Teen studio member Eh Ku Du Say helped me MC and DJ the event, as well as capture some great videos of performers.

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A wide range of talent took the stage. Contestants sang, performed dance routines, rapped, performed original songs, and rocked out on the drum set. There were even a few collaborations between our performers! Lay Doh (14) and Kevin ThaiThai (15) contributed backing vocals to the original rap song William (14) wrote and performed and General (11) accompanied Lay Doh (14) on the drums for his performance of “Down To Earth” by Justin Bieber.

Check out this short video recap of the winning performances!

Our winners certainly earned it, but truth be told, this entire showcase wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions of all our performers, as well as the Boys & Girls Club Staff. Thank you to Rosario Ruiz, Jenatt Lah, Kayla Taylor, Camila Avino, Jadale Thompson, William Bailey, Marcquia Love, Marcquilla Love-Sheppard, Lay Doh Moo, Aniyah Gant, Malia Denson-Jones, General Thompson, Kevin ThaiThai, and Eh Ku Du Say. You guys rock and this wouldn’t have happened without you!

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Fresh Talent

New members are constantly coming through the studio, but these last couple months we’ve seen a surge in our teen population.

It’s always an amazing feeling when someone who’s not familiar with Notes For Notes steps foot in the studio. Their excitement and awe of this fully-equipped music recording facility that’s completely free for them to use never ceases to remind me just how cool of a place Notes For Notes is.

Over the last few months, I’ve met a variety of rappers, beat-makers, and singers from visiting the local high schools in the area. While many have become members and logged studio time, there are just a handful that have truly been maximizing their potential in the studio.

14-year-old Lay Doh Moo approached me while I was set-up at Humboldt High School over a month ago now. I had brought Native Instruments’ Maschine to facilitate on-the-spot beat-making sessions for anyone who was interested.

(This proved to be a very effective approach – beats were being made almsot the entire time I was there.)

Lay Doh came to club the very next day, already prepared with a song he wanted to make a cover of. Since that day, we’ve spent countless hours perfecting certain melodies, collaborating with other studio members, laughing too much, and talking about what’s next.

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Lay Doh and General rehearse for their live performance at the Winter Talent Show in a couple of weeks.

Lay Doh’s first track is coming soon and will be followed by many more, including a live performance for the 2017 Winter Talent Show hosted by Notes For Notes at the West Side Clubhouse over holiday break.

Lay Doh possesses the single-most important ingredient to being a successful artist: having vision.

Even when I think a take we just recorded sounds great, he will insist that we do it again and again because he knows he can do better and always does.

It’s studio members like Lay Doh that remind me about the importance of positivity and persistence in all aspects of life. He finds a way to take things very seriously, while still fully enjoying them with a strong sense of humor.

Shouts out to you, Lay Doh! Can’t wait to see where you go from here!

Benefit For The Kids 2017

On November 11th, 2017 the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities held their annual For The Kids! Benefit at The Depot, an event center in downtown Minneapolis. Notes For Notes was invited to perform at the event during the cocktail hour.

We had a little over 1 month to prepare for the big day when 3 St. Paul studio members stepped up to the plate to make this performance a great one.

2 pianists, William Bailey (15) and Emilio Carrion (18), and 1 drummer, General Thompson (11), came together to brainstorm the best possible set of music for this particular event. The theme for the night was Happily Ever After, which got us thinking about Disney movies. Emilio already knew a couple Disney ballads on the piano, so we began arranging them and putting together a medley with accompanying drums.

Emilio’s medley included “Married Life,” from the Disney movie Up, “Be Our Guest,” and “Tale as Old as Time,” from Beauty and the Beast, and the popular “River Flows in You,” by Yiruma.

William wanted to add a more modern take with his pieces. He chose to do piano renditions of “All of Me,” by John Legend, and “See You Again,” by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth.

While General accompanied these performances on the drums, he also was able to perform with Commusication, a vocal performance group from the Boys & Girls Club across the bridge in St. Paul. The group performed their own take on The Jackson Five’s classic “ABC,” including dance moves and a drum solo!

The night was a blast and the kids really enjoyed the endless amount of snacks backstage. They were especially excited upon arrival to the venue. Located directly downtown, The Depot is a huge, modernized historical space that used to serve as a train station for the Minnesota Central Railroad. General threw around the word “fancy” quite a bit.

Emilio, General, and William pose in the entrance to the event after their performances.

While we’re still awaiting the professional footage of the evening, you can check out some highlights from the night in the recap video I made below!

DJ Davilla on the Beat

9-year-old Jeremy Davilla loves coming into the Notes For Notes Studio whenever he can. Besides rocking out on the drums, Jeremy’s favorite instruments are digital. He enjoys making beats on the Maschine (a beat-production workstation) and the beat-making station (a combination of synthesizer, drum machine, and loop station).

Jeremy’s favorite new addition to making beats is playing and remixing them with the Traktor DJ controller. While he’s only just made his “DJ debut,” Jeremy can’t get enough of certain songs and loves playing with the effects and spinning the jog wheels to make his own style of remixes. Check out the short video below!

Godwin “Ghost” Produces

Over the last few months, the Notes For Notes Studio in St. Paul has welcomed a wide variety of young artists to come in and exhibit their musical skills. Some were one-visit wonders and others saw the amazing opportunity our free recording studio offers and are continuing to utilize it.

One member, Godwin Agbara (14), specifically stands out in my mind as a Studio VIP. During the summer, Godwin would make the trek to the West Side Boys & Girls Club once or twice a week – as often as he was able to – coming all the way from Apple Valley ( a 30-minute car ride! ).

I remember the first time I met Godwin. As he came through the studio door and into the Mix Room, I began asking him some basic questions to gauge his interest and experience in music. I can’t recall his answers because they were nearly inaudible. I could, however, tell that Godwin had a reason to be in the studio.

He had a timeworn, dog-eared black notebook and a very honest, sincere voice. I knew that Godwin had a lot of creative ideas to express musically. The hard part was figuring out how to let him open up so that we could create a musical canvas he felt comfortable putting his heart and soul on.

Although he was noticeably nervous his first few times coming into the studio, Godwin really began to  shine once he was able to find his voice behind the songs he had written. Godwin and I had multiple discussions about the meaning and experiences behind his writing and discussed the feelings and emotions the music should convey.

After hearing his recorded voice back for the first time, Godwin started coming into the studio even more frequently, with a greater sense of belonging, and with a much greater confidence in his musical abilities.

The first finished song Godwin and I created is called, “Disconnected.” It’s the story of an abrupt end to a personal relationship, where the narrator fears that although he has “a million words to say,” he will never have the chance to say them to the person they’re meant for. It’s a beautiful heartfelt song that allows the listener to feel the sustained anguish of not knowing the reasons for a good thing’s end. I personally love the way Godwin uses his words sparingly to create a feeling of open-ended mystery and ceaseless wonder. Listen for yourself below!

Godwin chose to go by the name of Ghost and the Phantoms for his current recording project. He prefers to remain anonymous, while still accrediting the help he received from other artists in the Notes For Notes Studio during the making of his first record. I’m greatly looking forward to helping Godwin continue his musical endeavors and find ways to express how he feels even if there’s no one to listen to him at the time. Sometimes music makes the best psychiatrist.

International Music Lovers Unite!

Towards the end of summer programming in Saint Paul, a large population of our members got the chance to explore the beautiful sounds of nature through the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities’ Camp Voyageur. Voyageur is a year round environmental education center that is owned and operated by the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities, providing BGC members the opportunity to experience activities in nature like insect study, canoeing, outdoor survival, paddle-boarding, archery, and more!

Although the St. Paul Notes for Notes™ Studio did miss a large selection of daily members during these weeks, we also got the chance to connect and explore music from an international perspective. The studio was graced with 5 international volunteers who traveled all the way from Germany to be a part of the Camp Voyageur experience. During the time they weren’t surrounded by wilderness, they spent their afternoons hanging out with Notes for Notes members singing karaoke, showing off technical metal guitar solo skills, and teaching a few of our members how to drum like madmen.

"Owl" and "Hoops" serenading the studio with a duet performance.

“Owl” and “Hoops” serenading the studio with a duet performance.

The best part about having international students in the St. Paul studio was their ability to connect with our members and show them that music is a passion that transcends language; an art form that can be practiced and enjoyed wherever life may take you. Although some of our members got some laughs out of our guests’ accents when performing American pop songs, they were definitely taken aback when they heard what a couple of the campers were able to collaborate and jam on with electric guitar and drums. I’m willing to bet that the majority of our St. Paul members had never heard metal music before. After seeing their awestruck faces watching a volunteer whose name I cannot pronounce shred on the studio’s Les Paul, I knew that they had just been introduced to a whole new world of music.

And that’s what music is all about: making new connections and discovering new ideas through a shared passion for listening and creating sounds based on your perception of the world around you.

I can’t wait for more opportunities to introduce our members to ideas and genres they have never experienced before.

 

Notes For Notes at the Knicker Open

On Monday the 17th, a crew of 9 Notes For Notes members and I voyaged to a far away land in Bloomington, MN. Bloomington is home to our nation’s largest shopping center: The Mall of America. It’s also the site of the 25th Annual Knicker Open, a special fundraising event for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities. Notes For Notes St. Paul was lucky enough to get an invitation to perform at the event.

Since 1992, the Knicker Open has hosted prestigious golfers decked out in colorful knickers competing for an array of coveted awards and prizes, all for the benefit of their local Boys & Girls Clubs. Over the 25 years of the Knicker Open, golfers and sponsors have contributed over $1 million to BGC programs that have allowed the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities and Notes For Notes be where they are today!

Before our performance, our kids we’re excited to help out at the event in different ways. Some of our group greeted guests and passed out tickets, others helped at the bag drop, and a few helped out with book donations. According to the kids, it didn’t feel like work at all! Some of our teens even got to meet Al Lenzmeier, the founder of our West Side Boys & Girls Club.

When our performance time rolled around, everyone was ready to roll. This time around we we’re even more prepared than last time. Equipped with microphones and some fresh dance moves, our whole team was ready to rock.

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Notes For Notes is on the golf course!

The crowd loved our rendition of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Anthem “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan. it was an uplifting and patriotic performance that got everyone in the mood to compete and celebrate.

For the rest of the day, our kids received compliment after compliment and got to spend a beautiful afternoon out on the Minnesota Valley Country Club golf course playing games against golfers and riding around on golf carts – a first for many of our members!

All-in-all, we had a great day representing the Notes For Notes Studio in our West Side Clubhouse and can’t wait for the next performance.

Check out the gallery below to see some awesome photos from the event!

Special thanks to the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities and photographer Leah Fontaine for making these magic moments last forever. You guys rock!

Open Mic Nights

Every Friday, members of the West Side Boys & Girls Club have the opportunity to perform their favorite songs on stage in front of a live audience of their peers. It’s a time where we open the door to many members at once and allow everyone with a desire to perform have their time to shine.

20170206_164238These Friday afternoons are a time of great energy and excitement for the boys & girls of Saint Paul. Even those who are more timid enjoy being a part of the group by participating as an audience member. One of the best parts about open mic would have to be the program’s ability to draw in new faces and give those who are often bystanders the opportunity to get involved, even if just for a few minutes!

20170707_150758Past acts have included karaoke covers of popular songs, drum solos, songs sung entirely in Spanish, keyboard covers, and freestyle rapping.

It’s awesome to see so many young people interested in music and truly enjoying being able to do it in their own, unique way.

 

the following photo credits go to Akeelah Miller. Thanks, Akeelah!

the following photo credits go to Akeelah Miller. Thanks, Akeelah!

 

Check out some of the candid shots one of our members (thanks, Akeelah!) snapped during a recent open mic night below!

 

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St. Paul’s Debut Live Performance

This last Monday, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities celebrated the 15th Annual Morrissey Hospitality Golf Classic at the Hillcrest Golf Club in Saint Paul. In the past, this annual fundraiser event has brought in over $250,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities! This year, the event featured beautiful weather, delicious food, and a debut performance from the West Side’s Notes For Notes Ensemble.

The week leading up to the event, our ensemble dealt with some last-minute changes with some of our original superstars being unable to make the date of the performance. Needless to say, the team handled these variations like pros and quickly adapted to their changing roles. It was an honor to have Notes For Notes debut a live performance at such a large and important fundraising event for the Twin Cities’ Boys & Girls Clubs. Our young performers definitely felt the nerves as well as the rush of performing for the first time in front of a large audience.

We arrived at the Hillcrest Country Club a little before 11 AM with a sense of summer and excitement in the air. Our ensemble had their fifteen minutes of fame taking pictures with attendees and staff members and then dove into full focus-mode. This part was hard, as there were rows and rows of cool golf carts, beautiful scenery, a swimming pool (that our ensemble so-wanted to cannonball into), and the smell of lunchtime wafting through the air.

11-year-old General cant wait until the day he can take a cart out on the green!

10-year-old General cant wait until the day he can take a cart out on the green himself!

The crew kept it together, though, and we’re able to give a memorable first performance for the St. Paul Notes For Notes’ debut. Our ensemble featured General Thompson (10) on cajon, Serena Hines (11) on djembe, Lydia Sanchez (11), Liliana Guerrero (9), Marcquia Love (11), and Ciera Johnson (10) on vocals. After hearing so many members of the club singing this tropical tune from Disney’s Moana, we decided that “How Far I’ll Go,” would be the perfect piece for an acoustic performance on the Hillcrest Golf Course. The performance kick-started the day for the golfers as well as the drive in our youth for more opportunities to perform!

 

Check out the West Side Notes For Notes Ensemble’s performance from Monday below and stay tuned! The kids tell me their next performance is going to be “wayyyy better!”

 

 

Don’t Hate, Collaborate!

One of the best parts about working in the Notes For Notes Studio at the West Side Boys & Girls Club is the members. Everyday I get to meet new kids with big ideas and different levels of skill. Today I spent time preparing a group of young girls for a performance of one of their favorite songs from the soundtrack of Disney’s “Moana,” as well as guided and produced multiple tracks for some talented young rappers.

Life in the studio is never boring, but perhaps the biggest issue our members face is antagonism and rejection from other members of the club.

Notes For Notes offers a safe haven for young artists wanting to express themselves through music and it’s always disheartening to hear of ridicule and trash-talking when it comes to a piece of work one of our members has worked hard on.

The recurring members of our Saint Paul studio have come to accept this as part of the music-making process and are constantly offering advice and encouraging each other in their musical endeavors.

A group of young men with ambitions in modern hip-hop have taken the experience of receiving negative feedback and turned it into an fun, uplifting new track called “Haters Gonna Hate.” 13-year-old Donterris first came up with the idea one day in the studio while free-styling over a new beat I made. The idea was so catchy that other members of the club began singing along and wanting to add their own parts to the song.

This sort of collaboration and positive messaging is what Notes For Notes is all about.

Donterris’ great attitude and ability to bring out the best in others makes him a huge force in the fight against negativity. So far, Donterris has teamed up with 11-year old Eric and 12-year-old Davian to spread the positive message to others through rap. Check out a preview of the trio’s first track below!