On Friday, May 15, Youth on Record will open its brand-new, state of art, Youth Media Studio in the La Alma neighborhood. The studio will give Youth on Record students a chance to record the songs they have been working on in the classroom as well as a chance to learn audio production skills. The studio is the latest in a series of valuable tools available to Youth on Record students which aims to empower and encourage teens from all over Denver.
The studio, located at at 1301 West 10 Avenue, will be unveiled to the public with a reception starting on Friday at 3
We sat down with, Youth on Record's Executive Director Jami Duffy and asked her about the new facility and why it is important for her students and the community they live in.
Andy Thomas: Why is it important for your students to record their own music?
Jami Duffy: The original concept behind the studio was two fold. One, I always tell people that the musicians we are working with are some of the best in the city. It would be like sending Denver's top chefs into the public schools to teach culinary arts . We are bringing our kids into a state of the art facility where they can get their hands on the equipment. That’s one of the reasons we built it is, we wanted to make sure that the kids had access to this opportunity of recording to an analog board but being in some really beautiful facilities that they wouldn't normally have access to.
The second reason is, we exist to improve the high school graduation rate. In some of the neighborhoods we work in, those are hovering around 15%. We want to give the students some incentive to continue with their education. We use the studio as an advanceable tool, so if kids are doing well in our classes as well as their other classes, then they access to the studio. At the end of the day, we really believe in the kids we serve.
I was really moved when I first started doing this work when I saw hat our kids actually go to school in the basement of their schools, they’re not even allowed to walk in the front door. I saw that and was thinking 'how is that gonna inspire anyone to get up and go to school?' I saw that and just knew that we had to build something that was wonderful for them so that they are inspired to get up, go to school and envision a life for themselves that they deserve.
How do you collaborate with Denver Public Schools so that these kids get class credit for being involved with the Youth Media Studio?
All of the kids who participate in Youth on Record get high school credit. They get credits for their electives or some of the schools are doing social studies and English credits now. I’m a firm believer in after school credit for middle-schoolers and for elementary kids - I feel it’s really effective. Young people in their situation should either be getting academic credit or should be getting paid for their work . We work with six public schools and working in two residential treatment centers; we serve up to 700 kids a day.
Part of our agreement with the housing authority is that we host monthly events that are open to all of the residents of the community, that essentially is our rental agreement with the housing authority. We are in a rent free lease with the city that is incredible for this facility. Our understanding of the way we earn that is to open facilities like this to the community.
Talk about the La Alma neighborhood you are in and why it’s important you are there.
That community has a long and rich artist and activist history, coupled with some real, extreme poverty. Many of the houses there, were section 8 and were built in 1952, they definitely needed to be revitalized. The housing authority spent about seven years doing a health impact assessment and did so in probably one of the most sustainable and anti-gentrification ways I’ve ever seen. They essentially asked, what they wanted their neighborhood to look like. What a concept, right?
[The neighborhood] responded that they wanted it be an art-centric neighborhood, so the housing authority started building and, were able to move residents just a few streets away as opposed to displacing them. Not only did they add section 8 units, they also added 500 market rate units so, what this neighborhood is is the only one of its kind.
You have section 8 affordable housing units and market rate right next to each other. This is now the new national model for urban redevelopment and Youth on record is the anchor tenant. We are the connectors to the kids and the school. So by the housing authority investing in Youth on Record they are investigating in the education of the neighborhood.
As these students record their own music, is there a plan to get this music heard by the community? Any plan for a Youth on Record record label?
We will put out all of their music on our website and bandcamp and soundcloud. We’d love to do an annual album and we’d also like to do an album where local and touring musicians come and record something with the students at the Youth Media Studio.
The real question is how are we going to get it out there? For this generation, these kids have never bought a CD in their life, they get their music from youtube. How we are going to distribute will be interesting but we will have young people involved in that process the whole time. They also have to learn the music industry. They are consumers of music and, while this generation is different, they’ll be part of the entire process and will help to inform it.
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