Major cutbacks to arts education programming in New York City—spending has been reduced by nearly 50% in recent years—has hit low-income neighborhoods the hardest.
Yet, studies show that arts education positively contributes to the development of multiple skill sets and improved overall academic performance, and that high school students without arts programming have lower GPAs and lower college enrollment rates.
That’s why longtime DJ Phi Pham stepped in to help fill the gap, providing free music and mixing classes to local city kids.
His nonprofit, Building Beats, partners with top-notch music and DJ companies throughout New York City to help foster a whole new generation of music makers and entrepreneurs, bringing music programming to children in local schools, community centers, and homeless shelters.
“DJ’ing taught me a lot of leadership and business skills that were applicable to everything I did in my life,” said Pham, who has 13 years in the music industry and another five in the social good space. “I wanted to empower students to learn and realize those same skills.”
The nonprofit’s team of ten Workshop Leaders and three administrators are all professional DJs or artists who are currently working with 500 youth on a weekly basis.
Pham believes that providing mentorships and field trips opportunities in addition to music classes helps kids realize that they don’t have to leave their community in order to make music—or make something of themselves.
“The major objective is to inspire conscious creators to become collaborators with fellow creators in their community,” he said.
Music is engaging and socially and culturally relevant to students and their day-to-day lives, and Pham envisions a world where any individual can pursue their passion and build a career out of it.
That’s why he designed his programming to help young people become more self-sufficient, giving them the tools they need to do so.
Through a practical application of music theory, Building Beats aims to instill technological literacy, resiliency, social and emotional intelligence, communication and interpersonal skills, entrepreneurial thinking, and a problem-based approach to analyzing, creative strategizing, and planning to kids throughout the five boroughs.
Most importantly, students learn to ‘synthesize’ their ideas to help them achieve their personal and professional goals.
The impact is tangible in Building Beats participants like Alberto, who started in their workshop in 7th grade, and, just a few years later, is currently DJing school events and participating in a youth ensemble program at Carnegie Hall.
“We believe in tapping into students’ passion for music as a pathway to build skills needed to become a leader,” he said. “A little confidence in creativity leads to a lot of confidence everywhere else.”
“So much of the language surrounding education and finding career trajectories for those in low-income neighborhoods revolves around ‘getting out,’ and equates success with leaving the community,” Pham says.”We encourage students to ask themselves what they can do to impact their community.”
Ultimately, Building Beats envisions a world where anyone can realize their creative potential and ability to make a difference.
“Once students learn to cultivate their own worth and self-value, they are more likely to see their potential impact on their environment.”Share this article: