Local kids learn about music in a new BGCNEO program.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio, composer and musician Geoff Tanner, rapper/actor Ludacris and some of the top cultural institutions in Northeast Ohio have developed an integrated program dedicated to leveraging the full benefits of music for kids. It will launch on Sept. 20 as a pilot at BGCNEO Clubs in Cleveland, Akron, Elyria and Sandusky with plans to expand to additional sites in 2022.
“Music, not just lessons, but music in kids’ education is incredibly powerful and important," says Tanner in a press release about the program, dubbed Opening Track. "The opportunity that I saw was, ‘How could I do that? How could I help kids with music in our community?’”
Tanner, who came to the U.S. in the mid-'90s to play collegiate rugby, comes from a musical family. His grandfather was a classical musician and his uncle played in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. A songwriter and self-taught pianist, he joined the BGCNEO Board of Directors earlier this year.
“It’s using music to help kids discuss cultural issues, deal with stress and trauma, prepare for test-taking, using music to help kids perform and build confidence, getting kids out of the clubs to visit the Rock Hall and the symphony — that’s the thinking behind this program,” he says.
Tanner, who lives in Bath Township, and local musician Chad Hoffman, an Oberlin native and Avon Lake resident, wrote and recorded songs as the Opening Track Collective, a mission-based band, at Cleveland’s Superior Sound studio. Club kids sing backup vocals on three songs.
Multi-platinum producer Jim Wirt, who's worked with No Doubt, Fiona Apple, Incubus, Brian Setzer, Hoobastank and Live, says he enjoyed working on the tunes.
“I just have so much fun when there is that kind of energy, and when you are on the spot to get it in the moment," says Wirt. "It’s like, ‘Don’t just sing it loud, sing it good.'"
Opening Track will be a BGCNEO program, but the plan is for it to eventually be available to Club members at all 39 of the organization’s sites in the region. There is no charge to become a Club member.
The partners, who will provide everything from instruction to live music experiences, include the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Great Lakes Theater, the Music Settlement, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Summit (WAPS 91.3 FM), Open Tone Music, Youngstown’s DeYor Performing Arts Center and the University of Akron.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Orchestra will provide content and experiences to bring the program to life. A mission-based band will promote community awareness and raise funds to support the sustainability of the program.
Ongoing support will come from individual gifts, corporate contributions and grants to BGCNEO. To donate, visit openingtrack.org.
Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]