Get ready for a night of impressive musical feats supporting students in the community. The West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology (WMCAT) is performing a concert at The Pyramid Scheme on Thursday, May 3 to elevate student voices and promote the organization’s Teen Arts & Tech Program.
WMCAT teen artists will be taking the stage at this all-ages, community-focused show to perform original work along with the mentorship and accompaniment of professional musicians, producers, and support crew.
The Teen Arts + Tech Program is a tuition-free after-school program for students from Grand Rapids Public Schools, offering classes in illustration, video and audio production, fashion, video game design, mural making, and more – all seeking to engage students with both art and technology.
WMCAT teaching artist Mike Saunders, who has been involved with the audio production class since he was first hired, has witnessed an interest in music and performance grow at WMCAT.
“It took us a little while to figure out what the class would be like, and eventually it became a music-based class with a lot of students wanting to do recording and making music,” Saunders said. “As the desire for further music training became apparent, I began to bring in musicians from the community to work with the students in that class.”
One of these musicians is Grand Rapids-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Theo Ndawillie II, formerly of the band Vox Vidorra. He’s since taken over the audio production class, in which students had the opportunity last year to produce music at Amber Lit Audio recording studio, owned by Matt Ten Clay.
After making demos in class and recording them in the studio, the WMCAT students created an album, “Life Itself,” which earned a WYCE Jammie Award nomination.
Saunders said the creation of the album inspired an idea to put the music out there for the community.
“We realized, now that we had a collection of songs, it seemed like we could then get out and perform those songs,” Saunders said. “So, we set up a sort of concert tour for our students to perform around the community.”
The students’ first performance took place at Creston Brewery in January, showcasing the variety of music that the students produced – from contemporary and R&B sounds to folk tunes to hip-hop beat making.
The concert at The Pyramid Scheme, which is a culmination of the concert tour, will feature WMCAT students as a headliner with additional performances from Switch Pit, All of the Above Hip Hop, Girls Rock Grand Rapids, DJ Trigger, and other special guests.
Saunders is glad to see the support that the students have received in this venture.
“It’s so cool to see what Theo has been doing with the students, and I can’t thank Matt Ten Clay enough for allowing his studio to be used for recording and now for rehearsal time,” Saunders said. “And of course, The Pyramid Scheme has been a great partner in this, donating their space for this show and also allowing students to go and jam there so they can get a feel for the room before the concert.”
These types of all-ages, student-focused shows tend to be a rarity in Grand Rapids, and Saunders recognizes the importance of this opportunity for students and for supporters.
“I think there’s a huge value in music being something that is open for all ages to enjoy,” Saunders said. “Young people deserve just as much of a voice and a stage to perform on. It’d be nice to have more venues like The Pyramid Scheme make that investment – to say, ‘You know what? We might not get the money from alcohol sales for this, but it’s important for the community.’”
The WMCAT students are excited for the concert. Hayden is looking forward to performing his folk music, which he describes as “an alternative take on happy.” Queen, a vocalist and drummer, wants people to know that “the students that are performing at The Pyramid Scheme are the type of students that want to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to them.”
And Dizzy, who is a beat maker, said, “It’s gonna be dope.”
The concert starts at 7 p.m., with doors opening and music from DJ Trigger beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $10 in advance, or $12 the day of, and can be purchased at The Pyramid Scheme’s website.
All proceeds will benefit WMCAT.
*Photos courtesy of WMCAT