When you hear the word “DJ” you probably next think of music festivals or nightclubs rather than teachers or mentors. But Building Beats is changing that perception, one song at a time. Founded by Phi Pham and Sophie Solomon — two DJs turned educators — Building Beats is a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that aims to teach students music through in-school and after-school workshops, field trips, and events. The program couldn’t come at a better time, as funding to music and arts programs in public schools, particularly in low-income districts, continues to be cut.
Building Beats emphasizes creative music skills and experimentation by showing students how to sample sounds, write lyrics, and produce songs from start to finish. The lessons don’t stop there: Building Beats emphasizes entrepreneurial skills, confidence, and self-promotion. In the end, the impact is considerable — more than 900 kids from all five boroughs of New York have participated in Building Beats programming. Neither the program, nor the kids creating new sounds, show any signs of slowing down.