Last Wednesday, musician, producer, composer and founder of The Fugees Wyclef Jean joined students at South Philadelphia High School, presenting them with a $50,000 music technology grant in a special ceremony. Jean was joined by up-and-coming pop artists Jazzy Amra and Jeremy Torres. Representatives from VH1 Save The Music Foundation, Toyota and the School District of Philadelphia were also on hand to present the grant, which will support electronic music creation and technology – including deejaying, beat making, songwriting and audio engineering – in the school.
“We’re really excited to partner with VH1 Save the Music Foundation for their music technology grant,” said Frank Machos, executive director of the school district’s Office of the Arts and Academic Enrichment. “We had the opportunity to work with them a little bit as they were designing the grant, and one of the big things we’re doing here in Philadelphia is making sure we have a music education programs for all students that excite all students. To bring in some of the latest technology and equipment that’s used in professional studios by DJs and some of the world-renowned producers, it’s an honor for us to be a part of the rollout of this.”
After speeches from Toyota and VH1 representatives, Jean took the stage and answered questions from students in the audience. It wasn’t lost upon Jean, who was born in Haiti and raised in Brooklyn, that many of the students were a bit too young to be familiar with his work.
“Listen up,” he told the kids gathered in Southern’s auditorium, “when y’all listening to Young Thug and his song “Wyclef Jean,” – I am Wyclef Jean. Ya dig?”
Jean stressed the importance of education to students.
“You have to be educated for this new world,” he said. “If not, you’re going to get robbed in the worst way. It’s important for you to understand how to read a contract. How many of y’all doing good in English class? Math? Science?”
The crowd cheered.
Before the assembly, Machos said that the grant was a surprise for most of the students.
“We’ve started to inform some of the kids who work a little bit more closely with the music program,” he said. “The entirety of the school, I think, is going to be pretty surprised. We just started to roll out some of the equipment little by little, but for them to walk in today and find out that we’re going to have some international superstars is definitely going to be a surprise for them.”
Machos said that “a couple hundred” students in the school’s music program will have access to the equipment.
“We believe that music education helps us all in expressing ourselves creatively and gives a voice to express our emotions and connect with each other,” said Matt Ozawa, engagement marketing manager for Toyota Motor North America. “Over the past several years, Toyota was in New Orleans, Las Vegas and Chicago giving grants to aid in music education programs in those cities and we’re thrilled to partner with VH1 Save the Music Foundation for the fourth year to invest in improving quality music education in public schools.”
“In short, we really believe that every student in every school across the country needs to be making music, and it’s a right for the students to have instruments and equipment to make music,” said Chiho Okuizumi Feindler, senior director of programs and policy for VH1 Save The Music Foundation. “Since I started in 1997, we’ve donated to 2,100 schools across the country.”