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.'


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.


"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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

This forum has been closed.
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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America


New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

Avery Sunshine is known for her irresistible combination of soul, jazz and gospel influences. She’s traveled the world entertaining audiences with her powerful voice, inspiring lyrics and infectious spirit. She joins host Shawna Renee on "The Soul Lounge" to perform and share the stories behind her new album, "The Sun Room."