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Strikes a Chord with It’s Kids

The Boys & Girls Club of Syracuse
Strikes a Chord with It’s Kids

Happy Holidays, everyone. I hope your sense of love, peace and harmony grows along with the season; and that you have a great forthcoming year full of good things, wonderful experiences and —of course— great music!ss-1

This month, we’re going straight for the jugular of benevolence. People do good things with music. Usually, we cast glory upon the body of hardworking musicians hailing and wailing from the Central New York area­. It’s a lot of fun and a privilege to write about this scene, not to mention a great way for guys like me to dig into a teeming music scene. A scene that is ripe and seasoned with an impressive dose of raw-freakin-talent, chops, and generally chummy commeraderie among the players and music lovers. And the promoters are doing their thing, too, bringing a variety of specialty and themed shows at the rate fo several per month.

But, wait! There’s more!

The scene goes beyond that, folks.

Take my good friend Dave Marble, for instance. A trusted friend. He’s the CFO for the Boys & Girls Club of Syracuse. He’s also a huge local music fan. Name a show you’ve been too, and “yeah,” he was there. As pals who routinely talk, well … we were talking. He was telling me about a program that involved music as the vehicle in helping and developing and teaching the youth in Boys & Girls Club of Syracuse organization. By now, we’ve shared enoough conversations about it that I can see the development and progress of what they set out to do.

Real cool.

This is really important in any music scene —and of course, any community— to utilize music as the social medicine that it really is; and as the learning enabler that it also is. This is the good stuff. This is the important stuff. It contributes to the total sum of the real deal. Toss in the fact that its about time we all start roasting our chestnuts on open fires … which means we’re extra nice … and “SUGARPLUMS!” –we have this month’s music feature. So, I talked him into it.

ss-3Chuck Schiele: Tell me about what you do at Boys and Girls Club of Syracuse.

David Marble: I am the CFO. Melissa Bland is our Program Manager at Huntington School. Priscilla Babilonia is our Music Enrichment Specialist. Ron Keck of Subcat Studios helps us with applied relevence.

CS: Tell us about the mission of Boys and Girls Club of Syracuse.

DM: Since 1892, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Syracuse has provided our community’s youth with diverse life-altering programs aimed at helping them become responsible citizens. We serve more than 1,000 youth at four Club locations and two school-based sites; we offer children a safe environment, with outcome-driven programs proven to have a positive impact on their lives.

Through our programs we enable our youth to reach their full potential to become healthy, productive adults. Our programs engage young people in activities with respected adults, and peers that allow for powerful life skills to be learned as well to introduce them to new experiences.

CS: I understand that part of your agenda utilizes music programs for the kids’ development?

DM: Yes! By partnering with Syracuse City School District, we have the opportunity to offer enrichment classes in a variety of specialties. We offer a myriad of courses from Irish step dance, fitness & nutrition, to gardening; we are placing our focus on developing more musical experiences for our students. We have music professionals guiding our students through these great opportunities. Priscilla Babilonia has been offering a keyboarding program for two years and has been able to successfully incorporate acoustic guitar lessons for each of her students this year. It has been wildly successful, as the students were performing their first musical piece after only a few short sessions!

We knew last year that music was going to appeal to a variety of students, and after an awesome field trip to Subcat where the students were able to record their own music; we brought Subcat into the program as one of our partnering business organizations this year. The children are enthralled with learning how music is created by layering different sounds. They investigate the individual components and have been able to recreate an entirely new piece. Soon they will be making their own layers and making 100% original work.

New to our team this session is local musician David Etse Nyadedzor. David is teaching cultural drumming in multiple international styles. The sounds can be heard echoing through the hallways in a fun-loving rhythmic tune that really sets a joyous baseline for the entire program.

CS: This is outstanding to see an organization such as yours embracing music as a vehicle to do good things. How did the motivation to utilize music come about?

DM: The 21st Century Community Learning Center has gifted a grant that has been so generous to our program! We have an additional two hours after the school day to offer the students something that is not only educationally enriching, but something that they enjoy. Each student is given the opportunity to choose their enrichment, and unlike some other schools in the area, we have the funding to make their dreams a reality. Each student has the opportunity to play his or her own guitar for an entire lesson. It’s the same with the drums, keyboards, and recording equipment. These are not children that would be able to afford a personalized trip to a recording studio, but through the Boys & Girls Clubs and 21st CCLC, they can visit one every day at their school to make meaningful connections with their passions. We offer music because that’s what the students are excited about. We take our end of year evaluations very seriously and take the student feedback to heart when planning our programming for the next year. Because of this, many students have now had years of experience playing an instrument or studying a field that they enjoy. We feel that music is particularly important as it allows an avenue for personal expression and it can be a way to teach mathematics and science in non-traditional ways. It’s also very therapeutic for them to be involved in these sorts of activities after a very long traditional school day.ss-2

Every single student we have in our after school program has elected to be there on his or her own accord. They want to be in school for 2 extra hours to experience what we are offering them. It is so important that they are gaining life-long skills and building positive relationships instead of leaving school behind to engage in activities that would not be as positive or beneficial to their personal growth. Music appeals to many of them, and it’s what keeps them engaged.

CS: Very exciting news, indeed. What’s next?

DM: Each year being involved in the program has made me even more excited about the upcoming year. We strive for better each year. We take surveys and feedback from our students to heart. I look forward to hearing their thoughts on what they want to see and try to truly make it their program. We are always looking for volunteers and are open to ideas and insight from community members or businesses from those who would appeal to our student body and programs. Our programs offer invaluable experiences across the board.

CS:What would be an example of one of the postive outcomes?

DM: Our youth are learning how to be active members of their community by interacting daily with people who are enthusiastic about sharing their skills with them. Our most important goal is imbedded in our value statement that: Great Futures Start Here at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Syracuse.

CS: Well, I’m very happy and inspired that we have folks like you at the Boys & Girls Club of Syracuse. If everybody had a gig like that, wars could stop. Thanks for doing the article, Dave.

DM: It’s been my pleasure. Chuck.

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is a lifelong, award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member Quatrocollective.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.