New music studio rocks Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland

Since May, members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland (BGCC) have been rapping, mixing and riffing at the nonprofit's Broadway Avenue location thanks to a partnership with a national organization that builds, equips and staffs after-school recording studios.
 
Notes for Notes, now with 12 studios at Boys & Girls Clubs and other sites throughout the U.S., chose Cleveland for its storied rock history and the local BGCC's impact on area at-risk teens. Built with funds secured by Turner Construction Company and the Hot Topic Foundation, the 800-square-foot studio at 6114 Broadway Ave. offers a variety of instruments and DJ gear, along with podcasting stations and a mixing room.
 
"Kids see these kind of things on YouTube, but don't get an everyday chance to use them," says Notes for Notes regional director Ryan Easter. "Now they can get hands-on with these products."
 
Open to BGCC members from 15 regional clubs, the space is not just for the musically inclined, says art director Matt Bott. Over the past five years, more than 200 club youth nationwide - many of whom had never previously touched an instrument - have been exposed to private and group instruction or mixed their own music in the studios.
 
"Equipment is cost-prohibitive for students, so this (programming) is good for them," says Bott.
 
The curriculum includes an introduction to MoTown, complete with a meet-and-greet with R&B singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson. Participants are also working on musical concepts for a faux-commercial on football helmets protected by anti-concussion materials. And while some students may try a guitar or drum set, many are excited by the audio production aspect, using synthesizers and sound-editing equipment to produce original tunes.
 
Easter, who has an 18-year career in studio production, says podcasting is another avenue for club members to learn about the music or entertainment industry. A video challenge planned for later this month will test students' podcasting interview skills.
 
"Kids will pick three topics they want to talk about," says Easter. "They'll have to do research in taking topics from the news. This can build their confidence outside the building and change how they feel about speaking in public."
 
Future projects could include song collaborations with a Notes for Notes studio in Los Angeles or New Orleans. For now, having a big-time recording space in Cleveland can be an outlet for healthy self-expression, project leaders say.
 
"I'll push the envelope by making a contest between me versus the kids," says Easter. "It could be a battle rap about Steph Curry's jump shot or Iman Shumpert's hair," he adds.

"We're creating something, and they want to be better than an adult." 

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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