Notes for Notes: A Studio Education for Youth of All Ages | Reverb Gives

Notes for Notes

Reverb Gives provides students, teachers, and leaders of music programs with the instruments that they need, directly from the Reverb marketplace. Since its launch, Reverb Gives has had the opportunity to help support a variety of remarkable organizations committed to making the world a more musical place.

With so many unique missions, all revolving around music and music education, we wanted to take the opportunity to spotlight some of these organizations, detailing their cause and highlighting the great work that they’re doing with music.

Today, we spoke with Philip Gilley, the co-founder and CEO of Notes for Notes—a non-profit organization that builds, equips, and staffs after-school recording studios inside Boys & Girls Clubs and other after-school facilities. Packed with guitars, drums, keys/synths, DJ gear, digital music stations, and full recording studios, the studios offer youth completely free access to explore, create, and record music.

How did Notes for Notes get started?

Co-Founder Philip Gilley

At the core of N4N is a focus on mentoring, born out of my experience as a Big Brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. I would take my "little" to a local music store to teach him drums on the store's demo kit. But this wasn't a sustainable activity and soon led me to thinking about how there should be a place where young people could go to create and record the music that they’re passionate about.

Not every youth gravitates towards the traditional instruments offered in a school—if a school is even lucky enough to have a music program—nor does a school typically have a recording studio. Through the doors of a Notes for Notes Studio is everything and everyone they will need to become inspired about making music.

Not every young person learns the same, and there will always be those who struggle to follow the path set forth for them in school. They are the ones who need the support, resources, and freedom to pursue another way of accomplishing the goal. Inspiring creativity in young people is a delicate balance of stepping in and away from teaching. Sometimes a youth will need to follow along to a lesson plan and other times they just need a guitar in hand and the space to turn up and explore the instrument.

Notes for Notes staff are adept at identifying how and when to help a young person along their path of learning. Some days it isn’t about what you learn as much as it is about having the ear of someone you trust to talk about what’s on your mind.

Can you talk about the studios? How many studios does Notes for Notes operate now?

We currently have 23 studios in Boys & Girls Clubs and after-school sites in Austin, Santa Barbara, Nashville, L.A., Brooklyn, the Bronx, San Francisco, Ventura, Atlanta, Detroit, Cleveland, Memphis, New Orleans, St. Paul, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Denver. Soon we’ll also be in Seattle, Harlem, Vegas, and beyond.

Reverb Gives has allowed N4N to equip two of our newest studios, Brooklyn (Navy Yard) and Denver, with the gear we were unable to get donated from our partners—monitors, a mixing board, pieces for our Rhythm Station (looper, drum machine, vocoder), as well as stage speakers, and more. The support has helped us reduce our equipment costs, allowing us to refocus funding to sustaining our program.

N4N studios are open to all youth ages five to 18, but are located in geographic areas where the local youth wouldn’t typically have access to contemporary instruments, professional recording gear, and skilled audio engineers. We seek to help in the growth of independent thinkers through evidence-based practices in an effort to empower the most vulnerable members of our communities: young people.

N4N studios are in operation an average of four hours per day during the school year, with extended daytime hours during the summer. Programming operates Monday through Friday year-round. Youth may drop in for exploration time during open hours, schedule specific one-on-one instruction time or studio sessions, or sign up for an extended project, which meets weekly for anywhere from four weeks to an entire semester.

For the more advanced youth artists, N4N offers education beyond basic instruction and recording, leveraging connections with the local music industry to provide career guidance and offer artist development resources. This includes engagement with managers and agents, live performance opportunities, copyright assistance, meetings with entertainment lawyers, and more.

What are the backgrounds of some of your staff at Notes for Notes?

The staff at N4N are continually collaborating to bring the best programming to all of the youth involved, and each program director here is an accomplished musician with a unique combination of talents to offer. Each of them is multifaceted in their musical abilities, with vast music industry experience, backgrounds in music education, and formal music training from institutions such as Berklee, Stanford, Belmont, and the Art Institute of Austin.

What are some of the projects that N4N members have created and worked on?

In Cleveland, a band called Montage (made up of Cleveland School of the Arts students Jasmine, Kevin, and Gabe) have been persevering to record their first full-length album, 11309. They’ve spent two hours a day twice a week in the studio for six months working on it, talking about everything from ‘60s alternative bands they love to the best angles to take pictures of their Chuck Taylors as they write and record their music.

Montage at the Rock Off

Preferring to stand apart from others their age and fully embracing themselves as self-labeled “weirdos,” they came in second place at the Tri-C Rock Hall of Fame Rock Off—a major battle of the bands hosted by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—in 2017. Unsatisfied with second best, they dedicated themselves and spent the next year honing their crafts with an elevated level of seriousness and sacrifice. And this year, Montage took the stage and blew the crowd away, walking with a first place title and proving that with grit, determination, and dedication they could conquer their challenge.

There’s also Edwin from Los Angeles, a first generation immigrant from Mexico and the oldest of six children, who joined our studio there when he was 16 years old and began to explore music with our COO and talented pianist Raymond Jacob. Edwin embraced his studio quickly, exploring creative songwriting, instrumentation, and production daily.

He began writing and recording his own songs, weaving themes of his early years and Mexican heritage with the instruments and gear at his fingertips. N4N became a safe haven for him to express himself, while growing his musical talent. In 2016, he shared his craft at LACMA in the Summer Xperience, guided by industry professionals and his N4N mentor, Alex Kies.

The following spring, Edwin became the first person in his family to graduate with a high school diploma—the same spring he showcased his catalogue at House of Blues’ Bringing Down the House, where he did just that with his crossover hit "Nuestro Destino". As members never age out of the N4N program, he continued to visit the studio regularly after high school graduation and in the spring of this year, as a direct result of his personal commitment to music and the relationships he’s built, Edwin was the first N4N member to receive a full-ride scholarship to LACMA.

How can people support Notes for Notes and get involved?

You can check out our website to learn more about how you can lend your support and keep up with regular Notes for Notes news. You can also check out our 2017 compilation, Take Note Vol. 1, and keep and eye out for 2018's release coming soon.

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