Global Resonance 2016: Making a difference in the world, one note at a time.

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About the program and its mission:

In partnership with Hope In South Africa, in March of 2015, SoulCove Center for the Arts implemented the initial stages of a sustainable music program for the youth of Richmond, South Africa.  They believe that music nurtures self discipline, determination, perseverance, pride, focus, self expression, and sense of belonging. And it is with these qualities that true leaders can emerge ready, willing, and able to change the direction of a struggling community. The team returned to the community center in March of 2016 to hold the second annual intensive music education workshop.

During their first visit, the team focused on three major areas of education: Vocal Pedagogy, Fundamentals of Music, and Recording Technology/Improvisation. In an effort to insure sustainability and growth, intensive pedagogical workshops were also offered for teachers in the surrounding area. In the evenings, the community was invited to the community center to make music and discuss the political and social issues affecting the people of the area.

In the second year of the program, the team brought the three areas of study together in the creation of a music video. The children learned valuable life skills such as collaboration, patience, ownership, and pride as they worked together to produce a professional quality product. They learned how to sing and play in parts, how to create a profession audio recording, and how to work with a videographer. The excitement that surrounded the project fueled a sense of drive and motivation that the team used to bond with the students and engage them in the learning process on a highly focused level.

Rach and Thom on why they chose to become involved in the town of Richmond:

"Our friends in Richmond educated us about the hardships facing their community. We learned that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is an acute problem in this region of South Africa. In fact, Richmond has the highest rate of FAS in the world. Over 15% of children entering elementary school are suffering from FAS or have already sustained permanent brain damage. Hope In South Africa has concentrated its efforts on building awareness among the youth of the lasting dangers of drinking during pregnancy. They work to expand the role of the community center as a place for the youth to gather after school and engage in learning. We discovered that many families in Richmond live off of government grants, having never completed their education. Most serious in our eyes is that the children do not see a life beyond Richmond. Never has a program like this been offered or created for this area. Many educational sports based programs have worked here, but nothing has been offered in the arts. A music program for the youth of the community provides them with a healthy after school alternative. We believe that the qualities nurtured by the consistent involvement in a music program can help them gain the confidence and motivation needed to see that they can have a meaningful role in improving their community."

More about the three areas of instruction:

  1. Vocal pedagogy: Led by Thomas Smoker, this portion concentrated on using the body to teach three central principles: instrumentation, harmonization, and rhythm.  Mr. Smoker helped them understand that to sing, their entire body must be engaged. They worked on breathing skills, identifying resonances and how to find them, and connecting the breath to the tone. Richmond’s cultural traditions run deep in communal singing and harmonizing. Mr. Smoker was able to use this as a starting point to help them connect their newly developed notation skills (taught by Ms. Azrak) with their natural intuitions of how part singing functions.  

  2. Fundamentals of Music: Notation, Melodica, and Recorder Class: Led by Rach Azrak, these sessions focused on developing an understanding of the written language of music and best practices for instrumental performance. In her morning session, Ms. Azrak was tasked with teaching the staff and teachers how to read music. In the process, she explained the methodology behind her teaching strategies and how to break down the components of notation in such a way as to reach students on variable levels (including those with special needs). She spoke about motivation, perseverance, and managing frustration in the context of engaging current students and attracting new students. Using “Recorder Karate” as method for measurable achievement markers, students earned colorful belts when they played accurately played predetermined pieces. The hope is that when these student earn their recorder black belts, they will move on to (and have access to) orchestral instruments. In 2016 , thanks to the kindness of donors, Ms. Azrak introduced students at the community center to the melodica. She was able to share critical adaptive techniques with instrument as these are the primary instruments played by her students with autism at Boston Higashi School.

  3. Recording Technology and Composition: Led by Chris Baum, these seminars emphasized a basic understanding of recording technology and how it can aid in the understanding and creation of music. During his time with the teaching staff, Mr. Baum taught the fundamentals of audio recording using equipment donated to the community center. Through loops and sampling, participants learned the basics of key, meter, tempo, song structure, and arrangement by creating their own original compositions. With the staff equipped with the proper tools and knowledge, children at the center now have the ability to write, record, and share their own music, offering them something tangible for their musical efforts, and challenging them to continue to grow and learn in this creative environment. In 2016 the group put these skills into action as they created their own audio recording for the music video.

More about our team members:

Rach Azrak, Executive Director, Vice-President, and Treasurer

Ms. Azrak is the co-founder of SoulCove Center for the Arts, Inc., an organization spun from her passion for comprehensive music education, multidisciplinary collaboration, and outreach performance. Ms. Azrak feels most at home and has been praised for her work as the foundation and musical support for other artists, frequently playing in pit orchestras and filling the role of second flute. She is a graduate of The Boston Conservatory (MM, GPD) and Case Western Reserve University (BA), and studied music education at Cleveland State University. She and has traveled the world as a performer, visiting such countries as Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, the Cook Islands, India, and Africa in an effort to bring people together through music. She is employed full time as the Elementary Music Teacher at Boston Higashi School for Students with Autism in Randolph, MA and specializes in adaptive pedagogical techniques for students with special needs. She also teaches privately at 77 Arts Academy in Acton, MA and in her home in Newton, MA.

Thom Smoker, Executive Director, President, Secretary

Mr. Smoker is the co-founder of SoulCove Center for the Arts, Inc. He earned a bachelor of science degree in Bible/Music Ministries from Lancaster Bible College as well as a graduate degree in Vocal Performance from The Boston Conservatory. He is the Choral Director at the Pingree School in Hamilton, Massachusetts. Mr. Smoker has over 10 years of experience in teaching, coaching/directing, leading workshops and symposiums, is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), the  A cappella Educators Association (AEA), as well as the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). He has served as the Assistant Choral Director and was part of the voice faculty  for Endicott College and Lancaster Bible College. He regularly music directs for community and high school musicals and concerts. Mr. Smoker also maintains a healthy performance career in opera, oratorio, musical theater, and solo concerts as he is often sought after throughout New England and Mid- Atlantic.

Chris Baum, Director, Improvisation and Technology Specialist

Mr. Baum is an American violinist, composer, educator, and recording artist. A pioneer of modern string technique, his strength lies in his versatility, consistently pushing the boundaries of the violin while molding his playing to fit ensembles and genres often deemed unsuitable for the instrument. He attended Berklee College of Music (BM, film scoring), where he studied contemporary repertoire under Eugene Friesen, Mimi Rabson, and Sheldon Mirowitz. 

Mr. Baum's growing list of credits include collaborations with Bent Knee, The Dear Hunter, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Dropkick Murphys, Amanda Palmer, Symmetry, Art Decade, Ben Levin, Guy Mendilow, Jherek Bischoff, and the Video Game Orchestra, who recently featured him as a soloist at Boston’s Symphony Hall and on the ensemble's recent tours in China and Taiwan. He currently resides in recording studios, tour buses, and Rockport, MA, where he teaches music at Brookwood, Pingree, SoulCove, and Rockport.

Sam White, Videographer

Mr. White is a videographer, journalist, and musician. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts at Oberlin College. Initially admitted as a guitarist to Oberlin Conservatory's renowned jazz studies program, he has since completed a Political Science major.  He has served as the Opinions editor at The Oberlin Review and has sung (and beatboxed) for The Obertones, Oberlin's premier men's a cappella ensemble. Most recently, Mr. White has immersed himself in the videography curriculum at the Harvard Extension School. The program has given him the opportunity to nurture a passion for documentary filmmaking that blends his creative instincts with a deep-rooted desire to amplify marginalized voices. He divides his time between Oberlin, OH and his hometown of Manchester, MA.

More about our partner organization, HOPE IN SOUTH AFRICA:

Hope in South Africa, Inc., is a non-profit organization that works as a global partnership to empower South African communities to enable every citizen to become healthy, responsible, contributing members of society. Since 2005, they have centered their work in the small town of Richmond, South Africa, where they have established and maintained a community center. The center offers the children resources that they would not otherwise have access to. The children’s library is a wonderful source of information as is the computer lab where they receive the opportunity to interact with the newest technology. Each weekday the children receive a fresh hot meal prepared in the center’s soup kitchen and bakery which use fresh produce from the center’s community garden. HISA's work reaches out beyond the Richmond Community Center through two health education programs in HIV/AIDS and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. The Hope in South Africa staff takes a wonderful activity-based HIV/AIDS curriculum into the schools in Richmond and surrounding towns. Important information about fetal alcohol is shared with the youth in the schools and with young mothers in area's communities.