Meet Mark Robinson, Building Beats' Creative Lead

I volunteer as a Creative Lead for Building Beats. We’ve been active for the past year or so, funding workshops and classes for youth in New York City to learn how to DJ and produce music. We’ve worked with a variety of programs, schools, and community centers in the city and helped kids of all ages learn music production. The main reason I’m passionate about our work is that we try to emphasize entrepreneurial skills through arts education. Depending on the age, we try to push the youth in our programs to think about: working collaboratively, marketing themselves/their art, and ways to monetize the resources, skills, or knowledge they already have.

I was documenting some of the work we were doing with a partner org and ended up going to see an 18 year old’s beat-making equipment, which he had cobbled together in his family’s apartment to record other students rapping, etc. Seeing the dark, one bedroom apartment where his family lived and where he had set up a makeshift production/recording studio was an eye-opening experience for me. I’ve lived a very privileged life. Opportunity is the operative word of my youth – I was allowed to learn about whatever I wanted in well-funded public schools in Louisville, CO, and later, at NYU. All while living comfortably, with support from a loving family, motivated friends, and passionate teachers. I knew the story was different for a lot of kids in New York City (and beyond), but hadn’t bothered to see it firsthand until recently through working with Building Beats.

I’m not naive enough to think that we’ll end poverty by teaching kids to DJ. But I think the proof that (lack of) education and poverty are indelibly tied has been established. To me, it’s a sad truth that arts education is often not prioritized due to its assumed frivolity. As a “working artist” in an increasingly decentralized workforce I see arts education not only as an important endeavor in its own right, it’s also a useful conduit to other knowledge. We can take the passion kids feel for the arts and yes, allow them to explore and express themselves, but we can also channel this passion into entrepreneurial thinking, technological know-how, or even farther-flung subject areas.

At the worst, we’re giving youth a safe place to: express themselves, connect with their instructors and peers, learn music-making, and access technology.  At the best, we’re empowering individuals to think critically about their world and how they can change it.

That’s why I’m helping to grow Building Beats.

Donate to Mark’s Fundraising Page:

As a reminder: 100% of your online donations to that page will go directly to funding music programs in NYC.  How is that possible? All of our labor and operations costs are currently being provided and shouldered by a volunteer staff.

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