Thoughts 1/2: The Story of Sounds About Write!

Hello!  I'm JoVia, founder of Sounds About Write, a lesson studio for music and audio production. 

My journey to creating SAW started as a Music and Audio Mentor at YOUmedia Chicago.  It is a 5,000 sq.ft. space for high school students located in downtown Chicago.  Students spent hours writing poems, making music, creating graphic designs, taking photos and playing video games.  During Wednesday evenings we held an open mic for the teens.  Students were able to check out laptops and other digital media tools such as cameras, piano keyboards, and video games.  The whole experience was great not just for the students but also for me.  I learned about teens and myself.  As it turns out, a lot of the students were interested in learning how to play instruments and write songs. 

I faced two hurdles.....  one hurdle was managing the impatience of today's teenager.  Learning music isn't something that a person will typically learn overnight.  Years ago, music teachers would hand out a sheet of paper full of scales and you were told to go home and learn your scales.  The following week, you'd be tested on how well you can play them on your instrument.  I can't pick on the teenager that much though because even an adult will struggle to learn a foreign language.  Motivation to learn is a big factor of course.  I've found that if someone is determined to do something, they will do it no matter the challenges they face. 

In the case of the teenager at YOUmedia, they still had to do homework, do chores at home and wanted to hang with friends.  How could I compete!?!?  I mean, learning music wasn't an requirement so I couldn't force them to go home and learn their scales.  So I thought about different ways I could make learning music fun for them in hopes that they would stick with it because they wanted to.  Now, its best I explain the other hurdle.  We had no instruments.

"........Oh lawd, what is we gone do!?!"


Be creative!   We had no guitars, basses, trumpets or drum sets.  We had drum machines, midi keyboards and laptops.  I remember Bro. Mike mentioning a digital symphony that he saw online.  There are some colleges that offer music technology programs where there is an ensemble creating.... mostly ambient sounds together.  But, then I thought about some of my friends back home in Detroit who created music on the fly in front of their audiences.  Both sparked an idea that I could try with my students.  I tried something and it worked.  I gave each student a music tool- a midi keyboard or a drum machine that we had in the space.  I gave them each a role as a musician and we wrote a song together.  I blasted everyone's laptop through the main speakers so that everyone in the room heard it.  They were excited and had learned a lot about music in two hours.  Melody, scales, rhythm, chords, song structure, half-time, and about various countries and the genres they've attributed to the world of music.  And although encouraged, they didn't have to spend countless numbers of hours to study scales.  They were learning a lot and a little at a time.   

Mentoring at YOumedia

I ended up resigning in 2012 from YOUmedia as I found it hard to balance my full-time music career with the demands of YOUmedia and my students.  Not to mention my personal life.  All three began to intermingle.  I found a few teaching jobs that didn't take up my whole day and didn't demand much of my personal time.  I taught at SAE Institute where I was teaching adults.  I got the same results with the adults.  Some of them explained to me that they had struggled trying to teach themselves music theory in the past, but my SAW workshop really helped them understand how scales, chords and rhythm works.  Most of them were interested in creating Hip Hop or dance music.  There were a few on the path to be singer songwriters.   

Now, it seems that a lot of nonprofit organizations are having funding issues.  I love teaching and giving back to the community.  I hope to help those in Chicago who have an interest in music create great music.  I've found that music has brought many people together and is very therapeutic.  I want to bring more music to the world.  In return, maybe it'll bring a little peace of mind.  Does that sound about right?