You can hear the pulse from the coffee shop below. Pounding and erratic rhythms shake the worn brick building. Drum lessons at the 402 Arts Collective.
Enter the lesson studio around the corner and climb a creaky flight of faded wooden steps and find yourself in a hardwood and brick waiting room, surrounded by the spastic pounding of commenced lessons. The door below swings open, letting in the busy noise of Benson’s downtown traffic and two sets of heavy feet clomp up the steps. Two young men enter the waiting room - Eric and Earl, the students. They are followed a few minutes later by the instructor, Steve, who leads them into a lesson studio.
It looks like a renovated apartment. Doors open and close into cramped hallways with doors on either side leading into other studios. The room Steve leads them into is set up with two drum sets and three windows overlooking Benson. A room off to the side is haphazardly stacked with boxes of sheet music, guitars, posters, CD’s, and drumsticks.
The lesson is a simple fill from “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. Steve plays it slow and Earl follows along. One-and-two-and-three-and-four-and-one. The beat. Add the fill, repeat eight times. It takes him a little while, but Earl eventually can play it himself. He swaps seats with Eric, who performs the same exercise.
Next, Steve has them pull the stools around to go over new material, the next part of the song. Listen, listen there! That’s our fill. He writes the notes on paper and shows them exactly where each beat occurs, and then he has them play it.
Do it again. Again. Again. Keep it coming.
Music and other artistic outlets shape the societies that they are born in. They are a look under the skin of the world, a detailed examination of how and why it operates the way it does. Literature is a symbolic reflection of its time, with the capacity to architect new mindsets or raze existing ones. Visual art provokes thought and action and mirrors the aesthetic of its culture and those who create it. Music is the heartbeat of society, an outlet for constricted thought and emotion.
For Eric and Earl, the drums are a distraction from their day to day. The steady rhythm and practiced beat help them focus and through their lessons, they are taught patience and perseverance. Music and the active pursuit of it helps these young men grow beyond the fractured homes and broken streets that they have been surrounded by. It is a growth that they would never have known without Urban Amp, which pairs 402 instructors with underprivileged or troubled youth who otherwise would have no means of growing artistically.
That's what the 402 Arts Collective is all about: bringing art to those who desperately need it and providing them with the space and the tools to flourish. The Urban Amp Outreach is the essence of that mission, the 402 encapsulated. Ben Shafer, the founder and director of the 402, believes that it is the reason that his organization exists.
The 402 Arts Collective is not just that cool place to learn music. It isn’t just an artistic community. Through Urban Amp, the 402 is a haven for the downtrodden, a place of respite, where they can find friendship and nourishment.
You can hear the pulse from the coffeeshop below. Drum lessons at the 402.