North Carolina’s statewide public television network, UNC-TV, recently collaborated with PBS Digital Studios and Beat Making Lab as part of a groundbreaking project that brings laptops and music production lessons to teenagers across the globe.
The result of the partnership is Beat Making Lab’s first U.S.-based edition of the web series and the first such foray into original, online content distribution for UNC-TV. The three-part episode, focusing on Beat Making Lab’s home base in North Carolina’s Triangle area of Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh, premieres Wednesday, May 7, online at unctv.org/content/beatmaking. The series continues on May 14 and concludes on May 21.
The Beat Making Lab concept originated at UNC-Chapel Hill when the university’s Music Department Chair Mark Katz invited local producer Stephen “Apple Juice Kid” Levitin to one of his classes as a guest lecturer. They developed a full blown music production class, in the fall of 2011. In the spring of 2012, local emcee and arts activist Pierce Freelon (of hip hop/jazz group “The Beast”) joined the class as co-instructor.
Within a few months, the idea of creating an IndieGoGo campaign to fund an international Beat Making Lab in the Democratic Republic of Congo was born. The success of that project, launched on YouTube in 2012, led to a collaboration with PBS Digital Studios in 2013 that funded trips to other locations including Senegal, Panama, Fiji and Ethiopia.
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Beat Making Lab provides students with the basic tools to begin making music by using a laptop, a mic and music production software; all provided for free. Students are encouraged to sample the sounds of their own neighborhoods and to use these sounds in their music productions.
“Making music is like making life. You tell people a story about your life through music and you actually touch people,” said Kalil Davis, a Chapel Hill Beat Making Lab student featured in the series. Additional Beat Making Lab episodes from other visits can be found at youtube.com/user/beatmakinglab
“The educational and community focus of this project fits well with the mission of UNC-TV,” said Shannon Vickery, UNC-TV's director of production, “and this series represents an important step forward for us as an organization.”