It may seem that, with the rise of streaming and decline in popularity of cable channels like MTV, music videos don’t play as significant a role in the lives of children today as they did two or three decades ago. At local arts and music nonprofit We Rock Charlotte, however, the kids haven’t forgotten. In fact, students there are getting a crash course in all steps of the music video process.
On May 6, We Rock Charlotte will celebrate the release of a new student album, Magical Human Coding, along with accompanying music videos and animated shorts put together by more than 150 youths over four months at the organization’s home studios in Optimist Park.
Scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, the student album and music video release party will take place at Independent Picture House just north of NoDa, featuring a screening of the students’ music videos and animated shorts followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with those students to go over their creation process.
“We are thrilled to celebrate the hard work and creativity of our music students and workshop participants with this release party,” said We Rock Charlotte Executive Director Brit Swider. “This event is not only a celebration of their accomplishments, but also a chance for our students to spark connection with our community.”
Music production became a part of We Rock’s Music Lab curriculum during the pandemic as a way to collaborate without being in the same room. Students of all ages learn songwriting techniques and music production fundamentals during one-on-one music lessons with We Rock’s teaching musicians and through free workshops called Amplify!
“We Rock Charlotte culture celebrates and safekeeps trust. Our education model allows the students to be in control of their creative process,” said Swider.
After the songs are created and recorded, the students storyboard their idea for a music video and make it happen. We Rock Charlotte’s teaching musicians and volunteers help make their vision a reality, and the students participate every step of the way.
“The student album connects community members across age, gender and racial gaps through collaboration. Children and adults work together to achieve a common goal,” said We Rock Charlotte creative director Krystle Baller. “People from different cultures/at different points in their lives tend to make very different choices. With our Student Album, the teacher offers sets of choices and the students choose their path supported by an expert.
“It’s always incredible seeing two students converge their unique ideas into one song or idea. In this nurturing environment, everyone’s individuality shines and the way their creative choices overlay with another’s creates something completely unique and interesting,” Baller continued.
All students enrolled in music lessons with We Rock Charlotte are encouraged to be part of the student album project. Free Amplify! Workshops take place monthly, allowing kids, teens and adults to support the process. The organization partnered with the Arts and Science Council, Blackbaud, Independent Picture House, Charlotte Art League, NODA Brewing, Crust Punk Baking, and Starlight on 22nd to put the album and videos together and host the May 6 event.
Launched as Girls Rock Charlotte in 2014, the organization began as a popular series of summer camps with a goal to amplify the voices of girls, women, and gender-diverse folks.
The premise of the rock camp is that kids form a band over one week’s time. The newborn band then writes an original song, practices it to get up to speed, and at the end of the summer session plays the song in front of an audience.
The organization announced a full rebranding to We Rock Charlotte in February 2022, with a goal to make the program more visibly inclusive to everyone, including trans and gender-nonconforming young people. It also served to unite We Rock with Pachyderm Music Lab, Baller’s year-round music education program for children of all genders.
“Safe spaces are created no matter the location of our programs because of our people,” Baller said. “We Rock’s Leadership Team and Teaching Musicians have diverse backgrounds, sexual orientations, and varying gender identities. Sharing art is an act of vulnerability. Cultivating moments where students, volunteers and teachers can share their art with each other leads to moments of deep connection. Through music, art and film we see the humanity in each other and we build trust. At We Rock Charlotte every individual’s creative identities are nurtured and celebrated.”
While registration is closed for the 2023 Summer Rock Camp for kids and teens, scholarship applications are still open for those making less than $50,000 a year or experiencing temporary hardship. The WRC team will also hold open auditions at its Optimist Park property, Rock on 22nd, on May 20 for its We Rock Band & Choir, which will perform at Festival in the Park in Freedom Park in September.
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