Washington School Program Uses Hip-Hop to Mentor Kids !! 

Tumwater, WA - Derrick Brown, a sophomore at South Sound High School, said the hip-hop music he created and performed used to be about “gangs and drugs and stuff.” But Brown, who took part last week in a music workshop to create a performing group and CD focused on making good choices, said his own current experiences in substance-abuse recovery already has become of part of the music he creates.

He said that the True North Music Mentors program was a natural fit for him. “I’ve been changing my style and what I write about,” Brown said. “I feel like this program can spread that message.” Several dozen students from high schools in Olympia, North Thurston and Tumwater districts collaborated on hip-hop tracks in a music academy last week.

An Olympia-based group called Gear Up With Music and True North Student Assistance, a substance-abuse-prevention and education service out of the public agency Educational Service District 113, sponsored the music workshop.

The groups brought the students together with local professional musicians as mentors, who let the students lead with their ideas, said mentor Jose Gutierrez Jr., who works in audio production and is a DJ at the radio station KAOS.

The tracks focus on avoiding violence and substance abuse. The lyrics emerged out of short workshops and hourlong pass-the-mic freestyle sessions, in which students and the workshop facilitators communicated with each other about everything from the day’s agenda to what they did that day to what they hoped would come out of the program.

“It’s an incredibly empowering experience to hear your voice recorded for the first time,” said local hip-hop artist Asliani, who recently moved to Olympia from Boston and who released an album this month.

She said that the long workshops helped the students learn to trust one another, open up and collaborate.

“All these kids have amazing talent,” she added. “Some of the kids, some of the girls especially, they say they’re not rappers. But a little while later, they’ll have half a verse written.”

The students also will perform at a live music showcase at the Capitol on Jan. 19, which is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The students applied for the workshops, and their commitment to spreading the positive message was more important than past musical experiences, said Gear Up With Music founder Todd Denny. Still, many of the students already were experienced musicians, and several brought guitars or demos of their own music.

John Thompson, clinical supervisor at True North, said he hopes that the music reaches schools and in the community and that the students mentor other students.

“It’s not an opportunity to make a song,” he said. “It’s about helping them to become a part of a positive movement.”

Added by: Watcher, 05/Jun/23 | Comments: 2
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