Music for the people

Ben Beckman

Photo By meredith j. cooper

For Ben Beckman, graduating from Chico State this month is no sweat. Actually, it’s a relief. At 29, the clean-cut family man has been at it for a while—you may recognize him from his seven years working at Rawbar. This semester, he started a music program at the Boys and Girls Club in Chico as part of an internship requirement—he’s studying music industry—and found it a true passion. The program brings pop music to the club’s youth; Beckman, somewhat of a hip-hop artist himself, was excited to bring the genre to the kids who are interested in learning to play instruments and create music that isn’t exactly what you might find in local schools (although even there, many of the music programs are being cut). Beckman’s venture, currently a volunteer effort he hopes might blossom into a job, is called Chico Music Youth. He can be reached at <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">{ document.write(String.fromCharCode(60,97,32,104,114,101,102,61,34,109,97,105,108,116,111,58,99,104,105,99,111,109,117,115,105,99,121,111,117,116,104,64,103,109,97,105,108,46,99,111,109,34,62,99,104,105,99,111,109,117,115,105,99,121,111,117,116,104,64,103,109,97,105,108,46,99,111,109,60,47,97,62)) } </script>.

Explain your venture.

I was looking for an internship, something creative with my background working for the record label on campus, Wild Oak Records, and studying music industry. [My professor] decided to let me pursue a music charity for underprivileged youth in the community—the age group is about 13 to 17. Basically what I wanted to do was provide a place where they could learn the music of their choice—the biggest response from the Boys and Girls Club has been for hip-hop, so that’s what we’re pursuing now.

They’re learning how to perform it?

Well, the cool thing is it was like they were just waiting for me to show up over there because they’ve already got a handful of kids who are already doing it—they’re already trying to make beats with Fruity Loops on computers over there, they’re deejaying there with turntables and records, and they’re rapping over there too.

It seems especially timely considering music programs are being cut in schools.

Exactly. I’ve been learning things now that I wish I had learned when I was 16. Plus, most people are drawn to popular music rather than to the types of music that are taught in lessons or classrooms. And these kids who are into hip-hop, I want them to understand the instrumentation that goes into it because kids these days, they get a program and they think that they can make loops with and they don’t understand copyrights or that they can’t use certain materials. We want to educate the kids as well.

So, what’s next?

Now they’re going to clear out a big room for us to just fill with instruments and recording equipment and we’ll take it from there. I’m going to take some of my own equipment over there, we’ve already gotten a piano donated. I haven’t gotten a big donation campaign going yet, but I’ve already talked to CAVE on campus and they’re very interested in the program. But the Boys and Girls Club has already said whether CAVE is involved or not [they] want this to be a new program here. We’ve applied for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and we’re going to start a volunteer and instrument donation campaign and see what we can do with it.