It has been an amazing past few weeks since my last blog post. Classes are now in full swing and all of TA’s are busy with their new students. The most exciting addition has been having our poet-in-residence Mykele Deville, come in to the classes and offer his expertise in songwriting.
Mykelle has visited two of my classes so far, but before he came I showed my students the songwriting tutorial videos we produced with him at FOM. First let me say that the students engaged extremely well with the videos. We made accompanying worksheets to keep the students on task, but they were even more engaged and focused than I thought they would be.
The videos introduced Mykele and his work in the form of his past music videos and of course the songwriting tutorials that were created for them. The students were extremely impressed with him. Some of the comments from the students were, “He’s like a J. Cole and Kanye all mixed in to one!” and “He kinda reminds of what Kanye used to do…” Those comments let me know that we were on the right track. Since I am teaching these students on a regular basis, my rockstar status pales in comparison to Mykele’s, hence one of my student’s comments to me…”Mr. Pierre, you kinda remind me of a fake WILL.I .AM…” or “Mr. Pierre, you look like T.Pain, but not rich…” thanks kid…I think? I’m still trying to decide on the appropriateness of these comments.
Fast forward to about two weeks ago when Mykele came to Kellman Corporate Elementary School on the west side. As he stepped into the classroom he might as well have been Lebron James or J.Cole himself! My students were so excited that some of them were rendered speechless…literally. Mouths were agape and eyes were as big as silver dollars. Some were jumping around the room as if they had won a million dollars. If Mykele was any fairer skinned you’d have seen him blush (I can say that because I’m black too. :D)
When the excitement settled, the students started to show Mykele their instrumentals and the lyrics they had started on. About ten minutes in, we were interrupted by the principal in her stern voice, “ Attention students and faculty…attention students and faculty! Initiate partial lockdown. Initiate partial lockdown immediately!”
Something in my gut told me this was not a drill…it wasn’t. There was a shooting that had just occurred three blocks away from the school. Thankfully, lockdown went on without incident, but what an awesome first day for Mykele! Often times in life, things happen out of our control that can take us off center and shift us from our purpose. But we find the strength to push through in the face of these difficulties so that the people around us can benefit as well as ourselves. This shows me how much art as a means for expression in the communities we serve is needed on a daily basis.
The realities of working in the communities we serve is something we have to accept. I’m so grateful for the support we get from our administration and our community to ensure the students continue receiving the opportunities to turn up their skills not just for music, but also for life.