Music is a powerful force in many people’s lives, and Davenport-based River Music Experience is bringing that power to after-school programs in a new educational effort.
The “InTune” program — which launched this week — is rooted in “the belief that music is a powerful way to get in tune with our identities, build confidence, provide an emotional connection, and build a positive path forward in life,” according to RME.
It’s a program rooted in providing “intentional, student-led, music education in spaces that historically have not had access to it,” RME program director Brianna Hobbs said recently. The goal is to build a sustainable network of teaching artists whose role will be to develop programming that provides:
• Relevancy — reflective of the student’s needs, interests, and cultural background.
• Representation — investing in leaders that reflect the kids in appearance and life experience to build trust and help them envision their musical path as they grow.
• Mentorship — consistent, healthy relationships for kids to rely on and learn with.
Specific activities at each site will vary depending on the interest and needs of the student participants. RME has a variety of instruments at the ready, so no matter what musical path a student wishes to explore, they can provide them the tools to do so. The program is a weekly format (typically during after-school hours) of one hour.
The pilot program is based at two sites the first year — Project Renewal, 510 Warren St., Davenport, and TMBC at Lincoln Resource Center, 318 E. 7th St., Davenport, and local singer Dwayne Hodges led the first one Wednesday at Project Renewal.
A veteran vocalist with 10 of Soul (a local blues, funk and soul band), he was recommended by the RME’s Chrissy Boyer, who also sings with the group.
“It’s true music mentoring, as reinforcing the arts with our young people — going into community centers, hitting after-school programs, talking about music and the arts,” Hodges said Friday. He plans to open students’ eyes and ears to different kinds of music, and serve what their needs are..
“Every location we’ll go to will be unique,” Hodges said. “Whatever agency we go into, we see what the kids are interested in.”
“We want to show consistency, show kids we are there for them,” he said, noting the importance of serving as a mentor. “Sometimes, people disappear from their lives.”
In addition to the Lincoln Center, a couple other locations have expressed interest in InTune coming in – the Martin Luther King Center in Rock Island and Boys and Girls Club in Moline.
“It’s having something for kids to do after school, give them something to do, pique their interest in something they may be interested in,” Hodges said.
“We talk to them, talk about what is their musical interests, what are their favorite artists,” he said. “We want to know what the kids want, not tell the kids what to do.”
InTune aims to show kids (primarily 2nd through 8th-graders) the potential of possible careers in music, plus how to appreciate music, Hodges said.
“We’re doing aspects of alleviating stress, being able to defuse anger, doing something they love to do,” he said.
Hodges — a Davenport Central alum from 1989 — grew up in the same neighborhood as Project Renewal, “so he has very similar life experiences,” Hobbs said Friday. “He understands what those kids are going through. That’s all intentional on our end. And we were honest when going to him to see if he would support the program and lead it, because I think he’s so talented and such a strong mentor.
“He’s very dedicated to be supporting the youth in our community,” she said. “So, we’re very lucky to have him leading the program and we’re hoping to see where it goes.”
Financial support from Pierce’s Promise
InTune developed out of conversations with both Ann Schwickerath and Tracy White, directors of Project Renewal and the Lincoln Center, respectively, Hobbs said.
“Beyond that, we also had larger conversations of, what are you struggling with in a community center? What are the things that are challenging you as a director? And what is your core goal? And we kind of work together to figure out some shared values,” she said. “Then outside of conversations with those directors, we are also having conversations with musicians of color in our area and asking them about what they’ve had to overcome in order to pursue a career in music as a person of color. Because a lot of the kids in those spaces are from communities of color and oftentimes their needs aren’t considered.”
RME wanted to offer the program also to better meet students’ interests, since much of music education in public schools isn’t relevant to them, Hobbs said.
“It’s hard for them to make that connection, so our goal with relevancy is ensuring that whatever we’re bringing to the table, it’s engaging to the kids, and they care about it,” she said.
Three years of the program will be funded with the support of Jeff and Kristi Cordle, strong RME backers who founded Pierce’s Promise, in honor of their musician son who died by suicide. Their purposes are to “equip and empower young people to learn the power and love of music and to raise awareness surrounding the risk of sudden suicide in young adults.”
“We’re so grateful that the Cordles understand what it takes to run a program,” Hobbs said. “We’re hoping to build funds to support investing in more equipment and having a fund set aside for anything that those kids have in building toward having more resources for them.”
The additional community centers for InTune will start after the New Year.
“It feels good to build a program where we’re hoping to put the kids needs first,” Hobbs said. “I think that there’s going to be a lot of learning from this experience and the level of intentionality behind this program. Our goal as a staff is to take this and use as a framework for thinking in everything that we do. And so it’s exciting to have that groundwork laid and start playing and then see how it transforms the organization as well.”
Hodges has been in 10 of Soul for nine years and has worked as a certified substance abuse counselor for 10 years, forming his own business in 2019. His InTune sessions include coming up with original lyrics and music, and education on how to write songs. Another participating artist is a saxophone player, Anthony Collins, a student at Black Hawk College, who also plays piano and drums.
“It doesn’t have to mean that these kids are becoming professional musicians or dedicating their lives to music,” Hobbs said. “It’s just a tool. It’s a tool to connect, to explore. It’s a tool for building relationships and learning together. And so it’s different in that regard where, with our camps it’s an opportunity for kids to learn music at a deeper level.”
Music with InTune is more a tool to develop strong, influential mentors for kids. “Regular mentorship is so important — it doesn’t matter what you’re talking about or what you’re doing,” Hobbs said. “But if you’re showing up regularly, it really does make a positive impact.”
“It’s just an opportunity to connect and it’s different in that regard,” Hobbs said. “We’re not going into these spaces with a structured curriculum. We’re learning together. We’re exploring. Whatever comes from those conversations will then guide the next week. And so, it feels like, it shouldn’t feel like kids are sitting in a lesson at school.”
“We teach them what they want to learn,” she said. “It’s truly reflective of the spaces they’re in, their life experiences. Each week will look different based on where our mentors are based.”
To learn more about RME, visit rivermusicexperience.org.