Editor’s note: During each Chips Quinn orientation and multimedia training in Nashville, Tenn., in May, scholars are required to complete a multimedia reporting assignment. Their work is displayed here.
Video: Cypher program
Beats and bars: Library workshop encourages self-expression through music and poetry
by Zahria Rogers
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – At the Edgehill Branch of the Nashville Public Library, speaking loudly and playing music is encouraged.
About 10 students filtered into the library’s StudioNPL after school on a weekday in May to participate in a workshop that allowed them to express themselves through music and poetry.
The event, which occurs three times a month, is sponsored by the Nashville Public Library Foundation and offered by Southern Word, a city organization that encourages youth to use the arts to build literacy and reconnect with education. Southern Word’s array of programs reached more than 4,000 kids last year.
At this workshop, called Cypher, a group of mainly elementary-age students got to skip the lengthy lectures and experiment with hip-hop and pop beats using the music program Logic Pro X. Students played on keyboards and found their own musical styles. Those not interested in making beats could opt to write instead.
“Cypher is more about creative ideas coming in one spot. You don’t necessarily have to be a rapper,”
said Jarrel Pierson, 29, a lead production manager at Southern Word.
Pierson discovered the power of the spoken word as a student at Middle Tennessee State University, where he was offered a position as a mentor with Southern Word.
Working with students of varying ages, Pierson travels among six locations each week, teaming up with teachers and librarians to bring music and poetry to students who have difficulty accessing programs in the arts due to lack of funding.
Carlos Shivers, 36, Edgehill Branch manager, said, “A lot of kids don’t have the opportunity to produce and this gives them (that) opportunity… Instead of just buying records that someone else has made, they can just be creative and listen to something they have written.”
Pierson said he never knew while in college that he had a knack for teaching or mentoring but described the positive impact it has had on him. He said it’s rewarding to see students who have never worked with music programs before blossom into skilled music producers. The program benefits children who do not have access to afterschool programs, he said.
“The biggest thing I have gotten out of this program is learning more about the software and learning more about how to deal with personalities and understanding what kids are going through on a daily basis,” Pierson said. “Who knows, they may be coming here because it’s their only option.”
Workshop participant Antonio Jefferson, 27, whose stage name is “lil 80’s,” had never attended a workshop before.
“The beat, the music, it’s a positive vibe,” Jefferson said. “That is what I wanted to do. This should be a continuing thing for the community.”