Music education is an essential aspect of child development. However, because of budget cuts, especially in our inner city schools, music education is among the first things to go. Fortunately, Music Unites, a non-profit organization working towards empowering urban youth through music, is establishing music programs in schools most suffering from today's budget crunches.
Through it's Campus Representative Program, a partnership of Music Unites with college campuses nationwide, programs initiated by enthusiastic college representatives bring the wonderful world of music to children of inner city schools.
Here in New York City, Sophia Melon of Columbia University and brothers Daniel and David Bailen of New York University, spearhead one such program. They have been going into Junior High School 52 in Inwood and hosting songwriting workshops for the students there.
Sophia Melon is a musician from Los Angeles who at 15 was signed to Disney records as the singing bass player of the all-girl rock band KSM. During her time with KSM, she opened for acts such as Demi Lovato, David Archuleta and the Jonas Brothers. She recently moved to NYC to pursue her own music, songwriting and performing career while studying at Columbia University. It was just a year ago that she got involved with Music Unites. "I've always believed that music education is an irreplaceable experience that every child should have access to," Sophia says. "It certainly helped me. It broadens not only your musical sensibility, but also your ability to express yourself on a daily basis, and this will get you farther in whatever path you choose to go on during your lifetime."
Daniel and David Bailen are twins and musicians who were born and raised in New York City. They formed a band called The Bailen Brothers, and have played on the VH1 Save the Music Summer Concert Series, Harlem Jazz Museum's Annual July 4th Concert in the Park and the CMJ Music Marathon. They also have been playing residencies at The Bowery Poetry Club, Bitter End, Sullivan Hall and The Studio at Webster Hall. They just finished working with world-renowned producer Joe Mardin in New York, and released their first full-length record on February 11, 2012.
David and Daniel are seniors at NYU and have been involved with Music Unites for three months.
Sophia, Daniel and David have teamed up as Music Unites representatives from their respective colleges and have been going into Junior High School 52 Inwood bi-monthly and leading songwriting workshops for the kids. "Watching these students light up when they sing really proves how transformative and uniting music really is," says Sophia. "They didn't have a clue who we were when we first walked in, but when we pulled out our guitars, they surrounded us and asked us questions like they had known us for years. Music really does bring people together."
The workshop has been very successful. The kids have written a Music Unites Theme Song and are beginning to write their own school theme song. Sophia, Daniel and David are trying to arrange an end of semester culminating performance where the kids perform all the songs they have written. "We guide them along but it's the kids coming up with the lyrics and basic ideas for the melodies. They even come up with harmony ideas! It's so much fun to watch them really search for the right way to express exactly what they're feeling and put it into song form!" Sophia says.
Sophia, David and Daniel are dedicating their own time and efforts to Music Unites, as do all the campus representatives. Still it takes money to keep programs like this going. In order to raise funds to expand this program and to support already existing Music Unites initiatives, Sophia, Daniel, David and Campus Representatives from City College, Hunter College and The New School are throwing a fundraiser concert on Sunday, April 29 in the Studio at Webster Hall. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
There will be four bands performing; Ampersand, Sophia Melon, The Bailen Brothers, with special guest performer, Adam Rhodes!
The money, at $15 per person will go towards Music Unites' Five Borough Music Unites Youth Choir Campaign.
Tickets can be purchased at the door or online.