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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

By daniel johnson, Artist in Residence

Twice a month on Thursday afternoons, fourth and fifth grade students from Project Innovation in Midtown join with the Museum for Artful Afternoons, sponsored by The Walker Foundation. Artist in Residence daniel johnson and Director of School Programs Dorian Pridgen facilitate this group to use art as communication and a strategy for achieving goals. All of our young artists helped to define and choose projects for the year and we are in the midst of our first one – Write, Record and Release a song.

The process began with a simple question from one of our teaching rappers Jason Thompson aka Pyinfamous, “Why do y’all want to write a song – what is this song about?”

“We want to tell people about who we are” , “We want people to know us.”

Local rappers, Pyinfamous and Skipp Coon guided the students in constructing verses based on the things they are proud of. Familiar to parents of 4th and 5th grade students, the verses focus on good grades, graduation, and your family cheering you on at a football game.

Pyinfamous reflected after our third session, “In the time we have been working, I’ve been thinking about my childhood and about how I didn’t have an opportunity to do anything like this, and what an impact it can make; just having someone excited and invested in something you are doing.”

One of the best parts was getting to work for two sessions at DJ Young Venom’s Midtown record and comic store OffBeat where he keeps his turntables. Phillip Rollins, aka DJ Young Venom, operates OffBeat at 151 Wesley Avenue on the North end of the students’ neighborhood.

The primary task for Young Venom was helping the students understand that most of the music they hear is made up of loops sampled from multiple music sources.This was important when assisting our group to pick out pieces of songs which would later have other parts added. “I kept grabbing their attention with key words they could relate to; ‘It’s not going to sound like this, it’s going to have more bass’ or naming artists with beats they’re familiar with.”

Joecephus Martin aka Skipp Coon commented on the nature of this unique opportunity for the young people, “a lot of times you don’t know what you can be until you see somebody that’s doing it so to be able to interact with artists and djs and people who are being creative and providing for their family; it gives them another option.”

The Museum’s own Kathy Acerra stepped in on piano to accompany our chorus writers and Midtown producer Tre Pepper aka Loki Antiphony will be recording the students work at the end of November. Look to hear and read about it in the galleries of The Mississippi Story early next year….