East Austin’s African American musicians played an important role in the establishment of our city as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” The unfortunate shrinking of black communities in Austin is an issue that needs to be tackled from several angles. In early June, an important step was taken in support of young artists of color: The Austin Parks and Recreation Department inaugurated the new Notes for Notes Studios’ youth-focused recording and music studio at Doris Miller Auditorium in Rosewood Park.
Notes for Notes Studios are drop-in recording studio environments where youth can gain regular, free access to a wide variety of musical instruments, expert instruction and the tools to create and record their own music. Staffed by Notes for Notes team members, the studios offer a knowledge base of engineering, instrumentals, theory, and songwriting, ingrained in a culture conducive to collaboration and communication.
“We’re building these kids up day to day, hands-on, building them up and helping inspire them through music,” said the new Notes for Notes Program Director Ray Price. “You never know what you’re going to see and hear when new kids walk in those doors. There’s a creativity that’s beyond words with youth–they come in and make their ideas happen.”
This new initiative is inspiring further conversations among urban music organizations with the purpose of advancing opportunities for local artists.
The Urban Artist Alliance, founded by multi-award winning artist, producer and artist advocate Terrany Johnson, also known as Tee-Double, is hosting a meet and greet networking and dialog session Friday, June 9 from 6 – 8 p.m. at Doris Miller Auditorium. A partnership with Notes for Notes, the event will touch on the current state of urban music in Austin and what can be done to further assist artist in establishing sustainable careers in the music business. It will also consist of introductions to the new recording space.
“Doris Miller is a perfect fit for the Urban Artist Alliance event as it is where I did some of my first shows in Austin back when I was 13 myself,” Johnson said. “We have a mutual goal of empowering black creatives in the various mediums of music to teach team about collaborations and making them future leaders. Urban Artist Alliance was founded on such principles of community outreach and being a voice in board rooms for the artists who have none.”
Urban Artist Alliance has helped over 500 artists nationally in the structuring of their music from songwriting, agreements with labels and production companies and basic artist set ups they might not have been exposed to before.
Similarly, Capitol View Arts’ Austin Hip Hop/Urban Music Summit is a Notes for Notes Studio partner event schedule for Friday, June 16 at the Doris Miller Auditorium from 2 – 8 p.m. This will be an engaging event that allows high community participation and takes input from participants. A position paper will be produced after the Summit, which will be submitted to the City Council and used as a guideline to increase opportunity within the hip hop/urban communities.
“We’ve had very limited space for these kinds of activities, and it’s our job for those of us who work in the community to get the word out and bring people in to this facility,” states Clifford Gillard, Board President of Capitol View Arts. “As this was unfolding, we started having a conversation about how to make hip hop and urban music have a more sustainable business in the community. It’s a fortunate time circumstance and I’m looking forward to bringing the community together to discuss where we are and how we can get to where we want to be.”
Capitol View Arts has consistently recruited artists from underserved populations to be part of events at the Historic Victory Grill, the Carver Museum and several other local music venues. Capitol View Arts has sponsored artist participation in conferences and festivals in Texas, as well as in New Orleans, Chicago, Atlanta and St. Louis to provide educational and performance opportunities to individuals with financial limitations. The selected artists for these programs range from emerging to experienced levels, with the goal of creating opportunity and advancement.
Capitol View Arts is committed to building a positive environment in which artists can work that encourages collaboration, diversity, and cultural awareness; offering support for art entrepreneurs in their economic and creative pursuits; and promoting community participation in the arts.
District One Council Member Ora Houston shared her pride and excitement about the milestone that is this project in a historical context. “This is an amazing use of what started out as a negative space,” Houston explained. “In 1971, the old Anderson High School on Thompson Street was closed for desegregation reasons and the fact that Anglos didn’t want their kids going to school in this part of the community. When neither the school district nor the new Anderson High School would take the trophies, pictures and the artifacts that were left behind, we asked Parks and Recreation to build this space right here. Most of such artifacts were moved to the Carver Museum and later on Anderson High School, so this space has been sitting here empty. The fact that it’s been re-purposed and the life, energy and spirit is back is very exciting. Music is part of our culture and this is an opportunity for kids to not only get to perform but to learn to do studio work.”
More information at notesfornotes.org/.