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Free Music Lessons for Houston's Young ... and maybe Africa

  • Kwame Ofori

Garrin Chillis (above) and a friend from Ghana, Martin Kabutey Adjovu, give Houston children a love of music and school. (Courtesy Garrin Chillis)

Garrin Chillis (above) and a friend from Ghana, Martin Kabutey Adjovu, give Houston children a love of music and school. (Courtesy Garrin Chillis)

Part 3 of a weekly series on Africa's Rising Stars

Two friends in Texas have come together to build the music scene in Houston, Texas. Garrin Chillis and Martin Kabutey Adjovu want to strengthen the musical skills of their young students. They believe building the music skills of neighborhood young people will guarantee their educational and social growth through the community music program the two young men have developed.

The program they have started for the youth of the Harris County acts as an after-school program where young people in the community can attend and keep themselves occupied while developing their talent. These lessons sometimes take place in local churches or at the youths’ own homes.

Chillis is their teacher and a local rhythm and blues recording artist. He is known professionally as “G chillz.”

Music is a way to keep kids in school

“To put your kids through music programs like this in an after-school program like this is a lot of money,” said Martin, a friend of G chillz, the performer’s manager and his partner in the project that offers free music lessons to youth in the community. “G chillz having the love for kids and having the love for music decided to do something to help the young ones coming up.”

G-chillz also speaks of how the program ultimately keeps the young participants out of trouble and focused in school. He does this through a strategy he employs which incorporates the steady growth and maintenance of good grades. This determines the young participant’s continued enrollment in the program.

On the issue of receiving support from the community and actually showing up for some of the shows that exhibit the young talent, G chillz emphasizes that indeed there is support for the program from the community. The community attends his stage appearances to promote his music as a sign of apprectaion for teaching their children. He believes that as he grows as an artist, the community music program will grow with him.

One of the challenges faced with such programs, they agreed, is the fact that many parents would prefer their kids get “real jobs” and become doctors or lawyers. Parents often see the arts or specifically music as a dead-end career.

G chillz said, “That is why it’s very difficult for some kids to truly shine. Because you are not going to get a parent who is as dependable and so driven for that child to make it.

“So I feel, like we should have more agencies out there - or community-based agencies - to help the community out”, said G Chillz. He recounted that his mother was supportive enough to put him through San Jacinto College to study music.

Martin said he wants to take the program to Ghana where he is originally from - and all over Africa - to help develop the music terrain among the youth in Africa. He vowed to make that a reality.