Boredom Fighters Brings Music Education To You
“We bring music empowerment workshops, mobile production studios, and instruments to communities around the world alongside expert audio engineers and educators.”
When I first opened Boredomfighters.org, I had flashbacks to my elementary school years, sitting "criss-cross applesauce" in a large gymnasium for a presentation I had been waiting for all day. There stands "Boredomfighters" founder, Tyler Manning, speaking to a group of second and third graders. Between two basketball hoops is the projector showing music production software with samples they've just created together. The mission posted across the image: "To bring music studios and instruments to 1000 underserved communities.".
As you scroll down, you see bold blocks with facts about their work: "2450 workshop attendees", "29 instruments donated", and "20 schools visited". As a former elementary school teacher and band kid, my heart bursts at the thought of diverse students across the United States finding joy in making music. I'm instantly a huge fan of this effort, and as the one of 2020's charity of the season, am here to share their story.
Early Beginnings: Fest Life
Tyler Manning picks up the phone from a van, on his way to a wedding. This is the same van that is built-out as their mobile production studio: fitted with storage for instruments and sound equipment, ready to be deployed and driven to any location. The conception of Boredom Fighters started in this very car and became the literal vehicle that brought instruments and instruction to music festivals attendees. "We’d be in car camping and would set up a studio outside the van. It’s a computer, speaker, microphone, audio interface, and various instruments. We have keyboards, beat pads, etc. We walked people through making a beat, creating a melody, including vocals or beatboxing; we're showing people that getting in the studio is fun."
Tyler and his crew found the experience to be so empowering for those who participated. "It helps people take barriers down. Music isn't hard and you don't have to be “musically-inclined”," Tyler explains. "We create a positive experience centered around the studio-space and show people how simple it is to make entire soundscapes out of one noise. Production software can be free and is often accessible on any phone, tablet, or computer." Everyone has the power to CREATE.
The Boredom Fighters' workshops now range from being an installation or instrument garden at a music festival where participants "mess around" while other times, it's a more structured educational experience for classrooms or schools. Each time, they bring their equipment and are ready to teach: "We’ll get instruments donated and rotate the inventory in our workshop. If someone really connects with an instrument, we'll give it to them."
As someone who listened to dubstep, the concept of making a door-creak or washing machine beep into a whole song isn't foreign, but having the tools or resources to do it seems overwhelming, even more so for students who live in rural communities or have little access to music education programs. Tyler and the BoredomFighters bring their services right to you: to schools, community centers, festivals, and other organizations to teach participants, young and old, that anyone can make music.
The Gang Goes Virtual (Education)
With a mission based on human interaction and in-person instruction, COVID-19 certainly poses a challenge for the BoredomFighters. "It’s really tough to have a bunch of kids together, playing instruments, and social distance. Disinfecting instruments and microphones and socially distancing was really challenging and rowdy.". But that's not stopping this group from making an impact.
With lots of schools going totally (or partially) virtual, and an even bigger need for music education and enrichment, the Boredom Fighters are using this as an opportunity to roll out their virtual curriculum complete with an online user interface to log into and walk through a course with peer and teacher feedback . Parents and teachers will have access to training to better assist and facilitate while kids will have more engaging lessons at-home. With instructional videos, lessons, assignments, and a virtual curriculum deep underway, Tyler and his crew are expecting the curriculum to be complete early 2021!
The series is illustrated by Gregery Miller from Netflix’s “Midnight Gospel" so it will be visually stimulating and exciting for young learners. The curriculum walks kids through production using a free online production platform called Soundtrap. It is designed so students can record and produce songs on their own, collaborate virtually with friends, and complete assignments from their teachers and receive feedback from professionals, and they can do it all remotely from their devices without downloading anything. Tyler adds, “And they’ll have access to all of this for FREE: they just need their face, and a computer, phone or tablet." The curriculum will also cover the same base knowledge walking through the more expansive production software, Ableton, for kids and adults alike who are looking to get started on a more professional platform.
Since this fall, Tyler and the Boredom Fighters have been working on rolling out the curriculum which consists of over 50 videos including everything from how to record sounds and structure a song with an intro to DJing and intro to how to produce a music festival! This curriculum marks the beginning of a Youtube channel and online learning platform that will eventually feature full free courses on music making, festival throwing, djing, and visual art curation. The goal is that one day soon, Boredom Fighters will own property and indeed throw an all-ages music festival with the participating young learners from all of the courses. The festival will provide opportunities for students to perform and gain valuable industry experience while connecting with other professionals and industry leaders: it’s never too early to build out that resume!
The Boredom Fighters will be hosting a virtual telethon-style music and arts festival, after the curriculum drops in early 2021, to promote the curriculum and spread awareness about their program. This virtual festival will feature live streams including musical artists, visual artists, and live art performances. The virtual fest will also serve as a call to action for ambassadors, promoters, professionals, and educators to get involved.
How you may ask? This is the cool part!
Tyler and the Boredom Fighters are also looking for music professionals and producers who can support and mentor kids virtually. His vision is "The Good Producer Network", a network of role models (like a Big Brother/Big Sister program), connecting studios and students across the nation. Kids will apply for the mentorship program and will link up with professionals they chose, who can offer virtual support 1-2 hours per week. For now, these will be Zoom sessions, but in the future, the Good Producer program hopes to implement sessions in-person at local studios or in their mobile studios. If you’re interested in applying to be a Good Producer mentor, please apply via the Website Link and join their Facebook Group for more info!
How To Get Involved
To support the Boredom Fighters’ curriculum (and future curriculums), please subscribe to the Boredom Fighters’ Patreon. The group has already hit their first goal of $5000 receiving a grant from the CNDC Covid Relief Grant but still need your continued support! The team hopes to start another studio in Denver!
Additionally, Tyler and the Boredom Fighters need educators and ambassadors to help promote these tools in local communities and online. School administrators, youth groups, park districts and community groups are encouraged to reach out if they’d like more information! If you know parents, kids, or schools that could benefit from these virtual tools and programs, please get in touch! His team is also looking for DJs/producers, VJs, or visual artists interested in participating in the virtual festival or partnering to be virtual professionals and mentors. Lastly, Boredom Fighters is always accepting musical instruments and equipment donations to support kids and studio spaces across the nation.