Mobile Beat Lab Brings More Than Music to Residential

Beyonce.

Dr. Dre.

The Weekend.

Hilton Morris
Hilton Morris and SHIFT students are leading song-writing and beat-making sessions for Res boys.

Those are just three of the most popular answers given by SaintA Residential (Res) boys in response to the always-tough-to-pick-just-one question: Who’s your favorite musical artist?

The boys were gathered at the Franciscan Room of the SaintA Capitol Drive campus on February 3, to kick off a six-week program with the Mobile Beat Lab, sponsored by a Homestead High School Club called SHIFT (“Students Helping Impact Foster Teens.”)

Aaron Heffernan heads up the Mobile Beat Lab, with help from beat master, Hilton Morris. Both Milwaukee-area men are music lovers and social work professionals. The SHIFT students are just as in tune with the music as they are with the need to help Res kids build safe relationships.

Weeks 1-3: Just getting warmed up

On Week 1, the Res kids and staff sampled some electronic beats and welcomed the SHIFT students and their advisor, Karen Forman. From chairs arranged in a circle, a couple groups of boys, staff, and SHIFT students took turns naming their musical favorites. There was a fair amount of overlap as Dr. Dre and The Weekend were mentioned at least six times. There was also some variation. For example, 21 Pilots, Miley Cyrus and John Denver, were each mentioned – probably not too surprisingly – just once.

During Week 2, the Res kids and SHIFT students split into small groups and carved out their own working spaces in the Lakeside Room and classrooms. Some groups began picking beats, others created stage names, and perhaps most importantly, all groups began establishing collaboration.

Andrew Lauric
Res staff member Andrew Lauric rolls up his sleeves at the keyboard during Mobile Beat Lab.

Week 3 brought together much of the previous sessions’ work and resulted in a school hallway ringing with chords and choruses; poetry and phraseology; and both familiar and original melodies. One boy, along with his group, came up with the line, “My family’s not perfect, but we still have fun.” And from there, a chorus was formed using rhyming words like, “sun.” Another boy worked one on one with a Res staff member, both seated at the keyboard, quietly creating a duet.

Weeks 4-6: Seeing – and hearing – what’s in store

In the coming weeks, Res boys will be given the chance to record their own music with the help of Aaron, Hilton, and their fans from SHIFT. The hope is that the boys will walk away from the Mobile Beat Lab with a sample of their creativity to keep, as well as the extremely important example of safe relationships.

The Mobile Beat Lab program is being coordinated by SaintA Experiential Therapist, Abigail Myers, whose stage name is Sunshine Abi. Check back in a few weeks for a recap of Weeks 4-6. And, in the meantime, may your writing pencils be sharp and your notes not be flat.

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