After School Music and Digital Audio Production at The James Baldwin School

At The James Baldwin School in Chelsea, AFP’s program is in its 3rd year, offering after school digital audio production, musical instrument instruction and performance coaching. Students range from 9th to 12th grade and come to the program with a variety of individual goals in mind. The sessions vary, and participants usually work individually or in small groups.

The class combines a combination of elements which are often going on simultaneously. One group may be learning how to sequence beats to a metronome track on one computer, while another student is involved in the more advanced stages of a fully fleshed out track on the next. At the same time a vocal duo may be working out harmonies to a rock ballad, while others are learning how to build scales and chords on the piano. In all cases, the fundamentals of music making are uncovered and explored. The focus is always on building a working musical vocabulary and developing the ability to use music for self-expression.

This year at Baldwin I have seen remarkable progress on every front. Beat-makers have progressed from struggling at playing simple kick and snare patterns, to building complete tracks and having their friends rap over them. Drummers who had never played a drum-set maintain a groove behind a full band. I’m especially impressed with Reshwan and Katana who had never met before. Within a few short months they have  become a powerful cohesive duet act eagerly learning the theory to support their development. Reshawn knew some guitar chords coming in, but upon learning the structures of scales and chords on the piano, his guitar vocabulary and playing piano has exploded in earnest. Katana, whose instrument is her voice, has also been learning the fundamental elements of melody through the solfeggio system. She has been working on her considerable power through breath support exercises. The duo already sound like a seasoned act that has been performing for years.

The Art for Progress Music and Digital Audio Production Program at The James Baldwin School is providing meaningful learning skills and an important outlet for students’ creative energy. The insights they gain through AFP help enhance their overall school experience and give them something to look forward to after school. We’re thrilled with the success we’ve had with the Baldwin program so far. I’m looking forward to recording Reshawn and Katana, among other talented musicians, and to continuing to lay down hip-hop, trap, and dubstep tracks with rhymes direct from the Baldwin halls.

Here’s a quote from Reshawn about his experience with AFP at Baldwin:

“My experience with Barry has been an amazing one. I feel that because of him, his methods of teaching, and his dedication and passion, that I’ve grown not only as a guitarist; but as a musician generally. I found that when you’re self-taught, as time goes on it becomes harder to progress and so when I first came to Barry, I felt that I was at a standstill. It was extremely frustrating to be able to play these interesting jazz chords and know all of these runs but not be able to explain to someone what the chords in a progression I made was or even be able to comprehend what I was doing.  In just two months, Barry has equipped me with not only the knowledge of what I am doing but he has also helped me begin to understand the underlying skeletal system of music itself and equipped me with the tools to explore and learn these things on my own through theory. Because of Barry, I can play a chord; sit at a piano and decipher and identify the chord, and find the notes within the chord. It’s like I’m experiencing the wonderful sensation of teaching myself guitar all over again and I love it so much. It feels so great to be able to stop by Barry’s room everyday after school for a couple of minutes or a couple of hours and learn something new. I am so grateful to him for what he’s done for me, and anyone willing to accept what he’ll do for them. Barry is dedicated, passionate about what he does, and cares about his students and as a student you can’t help but just admire that about him; it’s inspiring. I’m so grateful for his support and guidance, and I know that I’ll never truly stop being his student.“

Reshawn Smith, Senior

Here’s another from principal Brady Payne Smith:

“Art for Progress music courses have been popular with students and are an essential part of our arts offerings. Students are gaining skills, trying new things and learning theory while having fun in class.”

-Brady Payne Smith, Principal The James Baldwin School