News / Arts & Entertainment

Musician Teaches Kids Anything is Possible

Drummer and local philanthropists found a haven for local kids to learn music

Younger members of Studio Heat performing at the release party for the music clubhouse's second CD, 'Because of You.'
Younger members of Studio Heat performing at the release party for the music clubhouse's second CD, 'Because of You.'

Multimedia

Audio
Faiza Elmasry

When Rick Aggeler graduated from the famed Berklee College of Music in 2007, he had two career options: professional drummer or music teacher. He chose music teacher - with a mission.

Aggeler, 25, discovered early on in life that music is magic.

"Music made me feel like anything was possible," he says.

Aggeler was seven when he had brain surgery, which left him with an embarrassing scar on the back of his head. Worse, his medical condition prevented him from playing sports. So his mother suggested he learn to play the drums.

Inspiration

"I started playing drums with Ronit Glick. She was my elementary teacher," he recalls. "I remember just the joy it brought to me. It was my favorite thing. Sixth-grade was a new school to me and I had a tough time getting along with all the kids. Ms. Glick just took me in and I had so much fun at the program. I ate up anything she gave to me. It just felt great all the time."

Years later, the love of music took Aggeler from northern California - where he grew up - to Boston to study at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. While a junior at Berklee, he volunteered as a music teacher at a local youth center. In a way, he never left.

Aggeler helped create a small music club within the youth center. Later, serving as its director, he oversaw its rapid growth into a major program. The Music Clubhouse at the Blue Hill Boys and Girls Club in Dorchester, Massachusetts, now offers local kids a chance to learn how to play not just drums, but a wide range of other instruments as well.

Fresh, Rick Aggeler, and Christian 'C-miccs' McNeil in a studio at Berklee College of Music.
Fresh, Rick Aggeler, and Christian 'C-miccs' McNeil in a studio at Berklee College of Music.

Music Clubhouse

"Just watching the energy of the kids and working with them, they were so excited to learn and play, that's what caught my attention," he says. "It all tied back to what Ms. Glick did for me. So, as much fun as I do have drumming and performing live, it's definitely more rewarding and more fun, watching these kids grow up and develop."

The music clubhouse, Aggeler says, has become a haven for local kids who can come after school hours or during summer vacation. They learn to play instruments, perform together in bands and even record their own songs in the club's studio.

Super Hero is one of the songs from the club's second album, Because of You.

"It was cool, because I got a chance to be in a studio and see what it was like to record a song," says fourteen-year-old Javon Martin, who goes by the stage name Young Fresh. Fresh joined the music clubhouse three years ago.

"It has impacted my life in a big way because I never thought I'd be doing this," he says."We now give shows. Everyone wants to interview us. I'm on the radio. I'm doing shows on different stages. People are actually starting to see me as an artist. People are always coming to me saying, 'Don't forget me, when you make it big.'"

Akeylah Hunter playing piano at the House of Blues in Boston during a sound check with Michael Franti and his band.
Akeylah Hunter playing piano at the House of Blues in Boston during a sound check with Michael Franti and his band.

Akheylah Hunter, 10, didn't play an instrument when she became a club member last year. Now, she plays piano and sings with the band. What she likes best, she says, is performing.

"We performed in different places like at Berklee College of Music," she says. "We go on trips, like we went to the House of Blues and we went on stage and performed, and it was very fun."

Helping the community

Since the Music Clubhouse opened three years ago, it's served almost 500 kids. Aggeler says performing in front of different audiences helps the young musicians build self esteem. Coming to the club to prepare for those performances helps them learn how to deal with their personal problems and concerns.

"I can see what it does for them and it just develops confidence," he explains. "It's also an escape [from] the big problems we have in the neighborhood- obviously gangs, family dynamics. We have a lot of challenges. So whether they feel embarrassed about a zit on their face, or they feel embarrassed because they're not as tall as somebody or whatever, something about what's happening at home, we can have those conversations and they can write, too. They can rap about it and kind of let it out a little bit."

To expand the club and help more kids learn music, Aggeler sought the support of the community. Creating partnerships with the Berklee College of Music and local music stores, he says, has helped the club receive free instruments, recording equipment, computers and software.

The Music Clubhouse at The Blue Hill Boys and Girls Club has also gotten support from the Music and Youth Initiative, a nonprofit that develops after school music education programs in underserved communities in Massachusetts.

"I do think it's important that we continue to get private corporate and foundation investments in programs like this, not just here but all across the country, so we don't leave behind the children who may really benefit from this kind of a program and may not benefit as much from purely academic programs," says Gary Eichhorn, executive director of the Music and Youth Initiative. "We need to level the play field somewhat by providing kids who may not have the means to get private music lessons the opportunity to still learn music and get all the benefits that music education brings."

Aggeler is happy - but not surprised - to see music touch and transform the lives of his club members. It's the same magical power he experienced as a child, that inspired him to become a teacher - and to pass it on.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

"Soul Lounge" host Shawna Renee catches up with soul singer and songwriter Russell Taylor to hear what he’s been up to since winning the VH1 "You Oughta Know" title in 2013. She also convinces him to share a few songs from his album "War of Hearts."