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RYTMO - Music Opportunites
You turn into East North Street, Anaheim, and park your car. Unless you already know it, you have no idea that behind one of the unprepossessing houses nearby is a 4,000 square foot recording studio. Zoom in on Google maps and you find it listed – Love and laughter Music and Recording Studios ...
The facility is a complex of offices, rehearsal and recording spaces, and at the hub, a control room with the massive board of sliders, buttons and meters that we associate with sound-mixing and recording. This is a commercial recording studio, capable of accommodating mid-size orchestras, rock bands, and soloists.
Good thing is, you are expected. It’s Thursday afternoon and inside some 20 young people are either in classes or grouped around computers, hitched up with headphones, working on jingles and riffs with the aid of high class software programs.
This is an evening with RYTMO – Reaching Youth Through Music Opportunities, run jointly by Arts Council member Michael Anderson. RYTMO is a non-profit organization.
The studio and the RYTMO are faith-based operations but there is no pressure laid on the kids who attend to make religious commitments, though some do. The RYTMO organization is partnered with the Berklee College of Music "City Music Network", Boston Mass, who provides them with the PULSE music curriculum, and other workshops, and seminars. For quite a number of years RYTMO has been working with underserved young people to give them an insight into the commercial music industry. They receive tuition, adopt the language of the profession, handle the equipment, learn to play and write music, record their tracks, and so on. By the time a student has completed the third level – which takes about a year – they have the skills and incentive to find work in the music industry.
Very few ever drop out. And in the process they have learnt the social and technical skills necessary to get their lives turned around and escape the trap of the gang culture, unemployment, and hopelessness.
It really required spending an evening there to get the feel of the program. When I arrived Joey Arreguin, the owner of the studio, was giving a lecture to the new recruits. Most of these kids were from Anna Drive, the scene of police involved shootings in 2012. In fact, several gangs were represented there with the boys finding they could discover real friendship in the studio, although it was too early for that to be reflected on the street.
Joey has the kids engaged. You are going to learn how to make commercial music – he tells them. This is music people will buy. He himself built the studio on the back of royalties from his own music!
The kids chuckle at Joey’s funny, easy going chat. Every successful song has a hook. You have to be able to recognize the hook, and write good hooks. You might call the hook a jingle – but it is seldom more than six notes or six syllables of a lyric. The hook is the part of the song that you easily pick up and sometimes can’t even get out of your head.
Joey moves on to explain the typical structure of commercial music: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, outtro. He click on tracks from iTunes, projected on the screen, so we can identify the hooks in music from Michael Jackson. We get it. And woven into the talk is sound advice on professional behavior and appropriate language. It’s all part of the turnaround.
Soon the kids break into groups to write their first ever hooks using mini-keyboards and computers. Six notes – or fewer. That’s all they need. And each group has a product for which to develop the hook.
In a few moments they will inspect the studio recording microphones – most worth thousands of dollars. Not the things you tap and shout Testing, Testing.
Next week they will present their hooks to the rest of the class. They are on the journey.
The following You Tube video will give you a complete overview of RYTMO. Watching it will be time well spent.
In an unsung way RYTMO is one of many organizations reaching out to your people in Anaheim. Many of the kids get busy fund-raising to find the fees for the courses – which cannot be offered free. This means that sponsorship and donations are always welcome. Quite a number of the Anna Drive young people were there with the goodwill of a wider community that give the funds so that RYTMO could turn dollars into hope.