Announcing ‘Believe in Baltimore,’ helping kids make sense and music out of the Baltimore riots
WTMD parters with Believe in Music at the Living Classrooms Foundation to give at-risk students a chance to tell their stories. Members of Future Islands, Lower Dens, Celebration, the Bridge and others join in.
Several Baltimore middle school students in Living Classrooms’ Believe in Music Program have come together with many of the city’s most popular musicians to record the song “Believe in Baltimore,” a plea for positive change in the wake of the riots.
All of the song’s lyrics were written and sung by the students, with help from members of Future Islands, Lower Dens, Celebration, the Bridge and Mt. Royal, as well as Caleb Stine, Letitia Vansant, Cara Satalino and others. Baltimore filmmaker Chris LaMartina shot the music video, which was produced by 15Four. One of the largest collaborations in the history of Baltimore’s music scene, the project is the result of a partnership between Believe in Music, a program of Living Classrooms Foundation, and Towson University’s WTMD. The song and video will be officially released Wednesday, July 22.
“This is the definitive song to come out of the unrest in Baltimore, because no one can say it like the kids,” said Sam Sessa, WTMD’s Baltimore music coordinator. “They lived through an incredibly traumatic event, and came away with a message of hope.”
From left: Believe in Music students Caprice Martin, Taniyah Kutcherman, Yamaudi Pinder and Amira Winchester. Photo by J.M. Giordano.
Soon after the riots, Living Classrooms’ Believe in Music program founder Kenny Liner asked his students to write lyrics and melodies inspired by the uprising – which they had witnessed up close. One of them, 12-year-old Taniyah, hid in her bedroom and played loud music to drown out the violence outside her house. Amira, also 12, refused to join several of her friends who went out looting. Instead, they channeled their emotions into “Believe in Baltimore.” Taniyah wrote the chorus: “This city is where we live, this city is where we come from, won’t let it crumble into mass destruction.”
“We should be taking care of our city, not tearing it down and destroying it,” Taniyah said. “They didn’t need violence to get the point across. They could have used something more positive.”
Singer-songwriter Cara Satalino of the band Outer Spaces took the students’ lyrics and melodic ideas and wrote the song in one day. Future Islands’ bassist William Cashion and touring drummer Michael Lowry (who also performs in Mt. Royal) arranged the music, and the students joined most of the musicians at WTMD to record “Believe in Baltimore.” The song was tracked live at WTMD by Cashion, Lowry and Ed Harris of Mt. Royal. Katrina Ford and Sean Antanaitis of Celebration added backing vocals and keyboards. And Jana Hunter of Lower Dens acted as the students’ vocal coach and helped arrange their parts. “Believe in Baltimore” was mixed by Chris Moore and engineered and mastered by Jason George at WTMD.
“It was an unbelievable opportunity for the students to record in a real studio, and collaborate with some of the best musicians in Baltimore,” Liner said. “This is about giving our kids a voice, and letting them share it with the world.”
All of the musicians and other participants donated their time to help create “Believe in Baltimore.”
“For us, this is the perfect confluence of mission and music,” said WTMD program director Scott Mullins. “The students and musicians have created something special that will shine a positive light on Baltimore, and we are proud to be part of it.”
“Believe in Baltimore” will be released for free download on July 22.
“The recent unrest in Baltimore has shined a light on the need for programs that extend learning beyond the traditional classroom, making learning not only fun, but applicable to everyday life,” said James Piper Bond, Living Classrooms Foundation’s President and CEO. “Believe in Music achieves this by uplifting Baltimore City students academically, culturally, and spiritually, while promoting self-expression and community awareness through music education.”
Believe in Music is a program of Living Classrooms Foundation, a nonprofit organization that strengthens communities and inspires young people to achieve their potential through hands-on education and job training, using urban, natural, and maritime resources as “living classrooms.” Living Classrooms Foundation has been serving the community for 30 years. In 2007, Living Classrooms began a long-term community development initiative in East Baltimore called the Children’s Target Investment Zone. Through this initiative, Living Classrooms is taking an intergenerational approach to breaking the cycle of poverty by providing services and programming in education, workforce development, and health and wellness within a historically underserved geographic area that suffers from high poverty and crime, chronic health problems, and staggering unemployment.
Believe in Music is based on the Maryland State Music Education Curriculum and inspires children living in the Children’s Target Investment Zone to use music as a means to uplift themselves and their community. Major program goals are to expose students to a range of musical genres and styles; provide a safe space for students to learn a new skill and explore ways to express their culture, struggles, and triumphs through music and public performance; encourage teamwork, persistence, and other vital classroom skills; and encourage students to improve cognitive skills while making connections between their academic studies and real-world experiences and future careers. The program provides a safe alternative to the streets during risky after school and summer time hours when children are out of school and often unsupervised. The Believe in Music Program is making a difference in the lives of youth who primarily live in public housing.
WTMD is a listener supported, non-commercial AAA (adult album alternative) radio station from Towson University. The station hosts First Thursdays, Baltimore’s largest free outdoor concert series, and has collaborated with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to bring together indie musicians with classical music. WTMD also hosts Live Lunch, a series of free weekly concerts, as well as art exhibits, movie screenings and other events at the station.