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  • Art for Progress’ after school music enrichment program at Hudson High School for Learning Technologies was especially inspiring this spring semester because of a dynamic group of multi-talented, and eager students. The program was reinstated this spring thanks to the efforts of principal Nancy Amling. The program had been inactive for the fall semester because a lack of funding, Ms. Amling was influenced in her decision to restart the program by an exceptional young student and musician named Terelle. Terelle’s enthusiasm and hunger for new knowledge were the ultimate catalyst for the formation of the program.

    Tarelle wanted to learn about how music works beyond the shapes he was learning on the guitar. Hudson HS currently offers a beginning guitar class as a part of the school’s regular curriculum. The class is focused on the mechanics of playing the instrument, but like most beginning guitar classes, it did not address the underlying music theory necessary for students who to build their skills beyond the basic guitar vocabulary.

    The group of students that comprise the AFP after school program at Hudson range from 9th-12th graders, and are led by Terelle.  He expressed a desire to learn some more universal musical concepts in order to set up a foundation upon which to develop their musicality. They were made up of aspiring singers, guitarists, pianists, and bass players of varying levels of experience. We explored the construction of scales, chord building and common chord progressions; learned to understand key signatures, and applied scale and mode patterns on the guitar and piano. We also performed vocal solfeggio exercises, and looked at the elements of blues and jazz tonalities. Mr. Pinella, the school’s guitar teacher, was in fact a frequent visitor to the AFP program.  It provided him with new theoretical insights, while enabling the sessions to actively compliment the curriculum of his class.

    A heavy emphasis on rhythm and playing as a group provided students with an opportunity to apply their new knowledge in real time. They were challenged to make use of what they had gleaned from guitar class, as well as their new theoretical perspective in an environment that required focus beyond their instrument. Where traditional music instruction methods sometimes provide a static environment for group play, there is rarely an emphasis on listening and interplay. AFP programs encourage participants to develop a sense of responsibility for staying connected to the other players in a group. The concept of “feel” is introduced as soon as we start playing together. These skills are extremely important for young musicians looking to form bands and ensembles; and especially for those looking to lead their own groups and develop original music.

    Another aspect of the program was an emphasis on original composition. Students presented original work to the class, which we then critiqued and analyzed. AFP programs foster open receptivity to feedback. Before a student presents his/her original work, I would ask if the presenter is open to critical feedback. After listening, I would then point out what is working and where I see room for adjustment or improvement. When given the respect any artist deserves and a choice in the matter, I almost always find that a student will be more open to constructive criticism, and in fact appreciate it very much from someone they trust.

    Terelle and his friends performed at a number of school events this year, to rave reviews, and are working on musical projects this summer. These guys have consistently impressed me with the new chord shapes they’re incorporating in their songs, and the classic material they’ve unearthed for inspiration always astounds me. They are always hungry for new sounds, and stop by my classroom upstairs at Humanities Prep almost every day to see what they can learn from the students and teachers at Prep and the James Baldwin School.

    Overall, the AFP music program at Hudson HS was one of the most rewarding educational opportunities in which I have had the pleasure to participate, and I look forward to continuing the program next semester.

    Here’s a little video of Terelle ripping a guitar solo with members of AFP’s various programs!

    Terelle Ripping A Guitar Solo!

  • Formed in 1978, Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations devoted to defending and protecting human rights. Having long recognized the power of film to educate and bring change, the organization’s New York-based Human Rights Watch Film Festival screens approximately 500 films in 20 cities around the world each year. The 2016 edition of its New York City event is presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and IFC Center from June 10 through 19, featuring 18 feature films and three interactive programs. Here are some highlights:

    Hooligan Sparrow

    Hooligan Sparrow

    Opening Night selection is Hooligan Sparrow, which documents the efforts of  filmmaker Nanfu Wang to track Chinese activist Ye Haiyan (aka “Hooligan Sparrow”) in her mission to prosecute a school principal who arranged the rape of schoolgirls by government officials. Sparrow, a women’s rights advocate who first made headlines by speaking up for sex workers, seeks to close a loophole in China’s child prostitution laws that has enabled officials to elude rape charges by claiming that the victims were prostitutes. Hooligan Sparrow shows its protagonist and a small group of fellow protestors being harassed regularly by government-hired thugs, as Wang uses hidden cameras to record interactions with uncooperative police officials. Sparrow avoids arrest by fleeing to several cities during the course of the film, including her home village, as she awaits the verdict in the schoolgirl case. For Hooligan Sparrow, Wang will receive the festival’s 2016 Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking.

    Sonita

    Sonita

    Closing the festival is the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Sonita, a powerful film by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami that follows a teenage Afghan refugee living in Iran, in her quest to become a rapper, despite overwhelming odds. Much to Sonita Alizadeh’s despair, her mother is determined to obtain a “bride price” by marrying her off in order to finance her brother’s marriage. Also, though Sonita studies at a relatively progressive center in Iran and is supported by a sympathetic social worker, women are prohibited from singing solo in that country. The determined Sonita nevertheless finds a producer to record her songs, which eventually leads to a popular YouTube video for the emotional track “Brides for Sale” and an offer to attend school in the U.S. As in Hooligan Sparrow, the filmmaker becomes part of the story, as Maghami ultimately involves herself in Sonita’s plight. Though many feel that the role of a nonfiction filmmaker is strictly to document events, that ideal often becomes impossible when dealing with human rights subjects.

    Another compelling film dealing with women’s rights, Michele Mitchell and Nick Louvel’s The Uncondemned follows an international group of young lawyers and activists as they work to have rape recognized as a war crime at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Their mission to indict a mayor of one village depends on the testimony of a group of victims, organized by one brave soul whose husband and daughter are murdered as a warning to would-be witnesses.

    Chapter & Verse

    Chapter & Verse

    One of only two dramas presented by the festival, Jamal Joseph’s Chapter & Verse is the fictional story of S. Lance Ingram (Daniel Beaty, who wrote the script), a reformed gang leader from Harlem who returns to the neighborhood after serving eight years in prison. This clear-eyed film shows Ingram grappling with his menial meal-delivery job, a soul-sucking halfway house and neighborhood toughs, but also developing deep friendships with an elderly woman and her grandson, in addition to a local barber who runs an informal gym. Though fictional, Chapter & Verse realistically portrays the plight of many who fight to stay straight.

    Another fascinating glimpse into the lives of women in Iran, Mehrdad Oskouei’s Starless Dreams is a snapshot of a female juvenile delinquent center in Tehran. Teenage girls guilty of carjacking, drug dealing and murder act tough, but suffer depression and general hopelessness as they face the prospect of being released to abusive families or other untenable life situations. The girls form a strong camaraderie in a sad place that is nevertheless a sort of respite from reality.

    The Crossing

    The Crossing

    A timely festival entry, George Kurian’s The Crossing is a first-person account of a group of Syrian refugees in Egypt (where things are not much better), who flee to Europe, smuggled across the Mediterranean in a small boat. The film uses footage taken by refugee Rami Aramouni, an IT worker who buys a camera to document the exhausting and risky trek.  Aramouni’s fellow travelers are also mostly middle-class professionals (a journalist, a pharmacist, a conservatory-trained musician) who “are not fleeing for a better life; they just want to have a life.” Once they arrive in various EU refugee sites, the struggle for normalcy continues as they await their asylum status and try to stay sane amid regulations that prevent them from working or attending school.

    Other films to be screened at the festival include Michael Collins’ Almost Sunrise, Craig Atkinson’s Do Not Resist, Eric Juhola’s Growing Up Coy, Dalibor Matanić’s The High Sun, Sophia Luvara’s Inside the Chinese Closet, Maisie Crow’s Jackson, Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-LaValle’s Ovarian Psycos, Danae Elon’s P.S. Jerusalem, Kristi Jacobson’s Solitary, Jason Benjamin’s Suited, Tatiana Huezo’s Tempestad, and Heidi Brandenburg and Mathew Orzel’s When Two Worlds Collide.

    The Human Rights Watch Film Festival takes place June 10–19 at Lincoln Center and IFC Center.

    Marina Zogbi

     

  • Ok, fashion creatives, now let’s get in formation! If you are passionate about streetwear design, be sure to create brand merchandising that seamlessly promotes your brand in a unique and fun way, and that stands out with Beyoncé-level swag.

    After all, it’s not only a spectacular way to strengthen customer allegiance, it also pushes word about your company further into the world.

    Below: This week, a model sporting an old-school style logo tee at Gucci Cruise 2017 at Westminster Abbey. Crafted by creative director Alessandro Michele, this season’s layered looks also embrace logo design

    Photo: Getty Images

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    Even outside of the fashion world, Internet giants like Reddit and Mailchimp have discovered great success in brand merchandising.

    For Reddit, their first run of promotional gear sold out in 24 hours. And, as spirits company Sweet Tea Vodka points out, company swag is a more widespread form of advertising: [Fans become like] “billboards walking around, which is great,” he says. “The beer companies have done it forever.”

    As journalist Tim Donnelly writes in Inc., “brand merchandise is a great way to create new loyalties with your customers and enlist them to spread your name to new audiences.”

    However there’s a caveat: “You have to do it in a way that creates viral sensations, not just oversized promotional T-shirts that end up at the bottom of someone’s closet.”

    Below: Looks like Alessandro Michele took a risk using oversized promotional gear for a look that wins the day.  

    Photo: Getty Images

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    In Brooklyn, non-profit arts organization CariBBeing has developed a strong following thanks in part to their vibrant tees, tote bags and more sold via their online store.

    Below: A company tee featuring “I AM CARIBBEING” in Haitian Creole.

    Photo: Shelley Worrell

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    Below: A company tote featuring “I AM CARIBBEING” in Haitian Creole. 

    Photo: Shelley Worrell

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    Still, regardless of an on-point line of brand merchandising, “experts say you shouldn’t expect it to become a significant part of your company’s profits.”

    “It’s a great way, if you’re a new brand, to get your product going,” Sweet Tea Vodka co-founder tells Tim Donnelly. “I always look at it as advertising. If I can break even on it, I’m happy.”