At Boys & Girls Clubs, one of our greatest strengths is being able to expose our members to all kinds of opportunities through creative programming. I had the opportunity to visit the Music Clubhouse at the A. Worley Brown Boys & Girls Club, part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta. (My first on the scene blog post!) There, I chatted with Music Clubhouse Director Dustin Cicero about their teen music program. The Club received a 5-year grant from the Music & Youth Initiative, which assisted them with the initial funds needed, gave them sample blueprints for the space, and connected them with a network of other music educations both in Clubs and in other out-of-school time spaces.
The Music Clubhouse is a suite of rooms connected to the teen center, each with its own purpose. The main room is a gathering place, with tables and chair and couches and a stage for performances. Off of that room is an instrument room, which is absolutely chock full of tons of instruments! The Club has a focus on keyboard, drums, bass and guitar, with Dustin joining in on the sax and drums sometimes. One of the ways that Dustin has been able to build strong relationships with his members is by simply jumping into jam sessions, working and joining with them at every level. “They love playing with people and making music!” A local music store that Dustin works with personally has partnered with the Club to give a sizable price break for instruments and software.
Also in the Clubhouse is a studio, complete with a recording room. Dustin played me some of their recordings, and they are AMAZING quality. “Some of the songs come out terrible at first, but they are learning and having fun and expressing themselves.” Members participate in all stages of the process, from writing to performing to recording and editing. Dustin helps them build the skills and then sets them loose. “The goal is to get them using professional tools as soon as possible.” There is a focus on project-based programming, which means that everyone is working on something specific, and if they aren’t “we are talking to them and getting them to a place where they can start soon.”
Based on the interest of his members, Dustin also set up a video and photo production room. This has led to a strong video production program, where members make a variety of projects, from music videos to hair tutorials to horror films. Atlanta has a large film industry (hello Marvel!) and as a result, many of the local high schools also offer video production classes, but at the Club members are able to work on their passion projects, learning at their own pace and having freedom to experiment. Dustin said, “it really helps them to connect the dots between the school day and the Club, and is also helpful for me that they get trained at school because I’m not an expert.” He encourages the youth working on video projects to work with his musicians, teaching them how they can come up and learn together and build their portfolios using each other’s work. The video above is an example of this kind of youth collaboration.
Running the Music Clubhouse gives lots of opportunities for mentoring. “Their band has broken up and reformed 8 times,” Dustin laughed. “There’s always lots of drama when people think they are rock stars.” It has also opened up chances for Dustin to lead other programs. He runs Passport to Manhood, as well as a customized version of Money Matters. “Money Matters has become Music Money Matters, and we talk seriously about music careers.” Dustin also created a program on the business of music based on the show Empire, which includes content on management and other related careers. He submitted the program to the Music Impact Network to share with other music educators.
Partnering with the Music & Youth Initiative has been a huge help to Dustin and the Club, both in the initial setup and also in continuing assistance. “I would have been hesitant to take on such a huge undertaking, but it has been wonderful to connect with people, and have experts I can talk to and get suggestions from.”
The Music & Youth Initiative has opened the Music Impact Network to all nonprofit afterschool music programs! You can download their tools for free at MusicImpactNetwork.org and join their Facebook group to connect directly with other practitioners. We’ll also be sharing some of their great ideas here on the ClubX Blog, so stay tuned. (GET IT? TUNED? LIKE MUSIC? *dad joke wink*)
What unique programs do you run at your Club? How do you expose your teens to professional opportunities? Comment below, message us on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook, or email ClubX@bgca.org to share!