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Last Year's Battle for the Bands Winner Reports Back!
Any artist worth their latest record will tell you that the most gratifying part of being a musician is touching the lives of others. When we submitted for the DoSomething.Org 2011 Battle for the Bands, it wasn't just because we are passionate about music education, it's because we believe in the power of giving and the impact of an important message.
In 2007, I was among 5 winners in a hip hop songwriting contest hosted by Berklee College of Music, where I spent time studying, and Essence Magazine. The "Take Back the Music" initiative provided young MCs, such as myself, an opportunity to advocate for alternative hip hop. This contest was my first of what turned out to be many submissions to programs and competitions helping young musicians establish a voice of change. When I heard VH1 and DoSomething had teamed up for the second time to "Save the Music", I knew I had to get involved! As a longtime student of hip hop production and jazz history, I will never forget how instrumental music education was and continues to be in my development as person and as an artist. This was an opportunity to acknowledge and help preserve the academic enrichment that changed my life.
Our grand prize "Next Big Thing" music video was a national effort involving many talented individuals from a variety of personal and professional backgrounds. I developed the concept in New York, wrote the song in Silicon Valley, worked with studio engineers in North Carolina on the production and had the video filmed and directed in San Francisco. I featured my favorite group of youth musicians in the Bay Area and worked with the students to arrange scenes and ideas that worked well with the song they inspired. The finished product was tailor-made to the kids' taste and is a vivid representation of the joy that music has brought to their lives and stories.
While the project was an absolute blast, it never really dawned on us that we were competing for a prize. We knew there was a chance we could win our school grant money to support a much needed purchase of youth music equipment, but we entered the contest for the experience. We learned so much about ourselves in the process and we were able to show so many kids and parents that music is an agent of change and a catalyst for expression and creativity. To our surprise, we were awarded first place and humbly accepted the $5,000 in support, which helped us purchase new drums and instruments for our classrooms at CASA. We received an invitation to showcase our piece with the Plain White Ts in NYC, which to this day was one of the most rewarding performances of my career.
DoSomething.Org and VH1 Save the Music provided us an opportunity to remind students, teachers and parents alike that music education can change lives. We are forever thankful to these noble organizations for the work they are doing to save the music and light the world on fire through self-expression.
(2011 Battle for the Bands winner)