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Students rise to the top with media skills

on January 5, 2010

Young aspiring music producers, recording artists, videographers, and bloggers take advantage of the RYSE Center’s media arts program. The RYSE youth center provides its members with many resources including a recording studio, turntables,video cameras, and a computer lab equipped with professional editing software – all free of charge and with the hope of igniting social and political consciousness in the local youth.

Fred Thomson is the director of the media arts program at RYSE.

Fred Thomas is the director of the media arts program at RYSE.

The media arts program is comprised of five different subgroups: artist development, DJ workshop, music production, audio engineering and video production. With more than 650 members, the multicultural non-profit center provides not only a safe spot for youth from Richmond and surrounding areas, but also gives them an opportunity to develop their interests. About 50 students are regular participants of the media arts program.

Fred Thomas is the director of the media arts program and the instructor for the audio engineering class. Thomas is a graduate of The Los Angeles Recording School, music producer, and former product specialist with Digidesign, the creator of ProTools. Thomas worked as a Pro Tools specialist, a professional audio editing program, for three years before before joining RYSE staff.

“We take the natural environment and make it supernatural, but keep the integrity,” Thomas said to his students. “Imagine what I can do if I have more control. This is what Pro Tools is all about.”

Thomas is a tall man with a booming voice and a big smile. He  grew up in an area similar to Richmond and relates to the students well. Thomas’s students describe him as a cross between “Randy Jackson and a preacher.”

Aspiring musicians learn sound editing with industry-standard software.

Aspiring musicians learn sound editing with industry-standard software.

““He’s inspiring and makes things happen,” said James Dailey Jr., 17, a student in Thomas’s audio engineering class.

Everyday Isaiah McClain, 17, visits the RYSE Center’s recording studio and editing room to make music and practice using Pro Tools.

“I’m here so I can learn to do it myself and be independent,” said McClain. “I want to be ready for anything: a singer, an audio engineer, a producer and a song-writer.”

Thomas said he noticed that a change in attitude has a positive effect on school work and test scores.

Devionnce Griffin, a 24-year-old instructor for the music production class, said RYSE’s media arts program provides an extremely rare opportunity for Richmond students to hone their music abilities. Griffin, who is a resident of Richmond, said this class is important because it gives people a chance at a head start.

“Young black males need structure and opportunity,” Griffin said.

Devionnce Griffin offers music production tips to Keith Brock.

Devionnce Griffin offers music production tips to Keith Brock.

Keith Brock,15, hopes to be a famous R&B singer like his look-alike, Ne-Yo. When Brock is not at school, he’s at RYSE experimenting with Reason, a professional music production program.

“I get to work on something I love and people actually help me become better at what I want to do,” said Brock.

The digital justice team, a project within the media arts program, uses media to address inequality in its community. The eight-student team produce videos, how-to-articles and blog entries on racism, pregnancy and education inequality. The team is responsible for everything: concept, production and even editing. RYSE expects each member to put in 20 hours of work per month but also pays each person a $200 stipend for their work.

“Being part of the digital justice team has made me realize that I have a voice and that I can actually make a difference,” said Sandhay Nadan, a 16-year-old Richmond High student. Nadan’s writing touched on some hard issues. Her latest blog entry recounted memories of a recently passed-away RYSE member, Kyle Bratton.

Dan Reilly, the instructor of the video editing class, said the goal is to set the foundations of storytelling and give the students marketable skills. The hope is to take student’s interests to the next level and develop basic skills that can one day make them competitive for jobs.

“Youth here are more than capable of meeting the challenge. Instead of asking them what I think they can do, I ask them to do things that I think are really challenging,” said Reilly. “So many times they meet those challenges.”


  1. Kimberly Aceves on January 12, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Thanks to Richmond Confidential for the great article and media coverage that focuses on positive things happening with young people in the Richmond community. Also, it didn’t make it in the article, but the RYSE music program is what it is because of the amazing collaboration, vision and support of Youth Movement Records and BEATZ!!!!!!!

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