It is my personal experience that just one positive relationship can dramatically change the course of a young person’s life. Creative Youth Development music learning, performance, and creation opportunities are the perfect platform to develop that relationship. My name is Brandon Steppe, and I am the Founder of the David’s Harp Foundation.
In 2006, I left a corporate job to build a professional recording studio in my father’s garage located in the Southeast San Diego neighborhood where I grew up. Our community of 170,000 has one major “discount outlet” grocery store, one sub-standard hospital, and three times as many gangs as after school arts programs. Despite these challenges, we remain resilient and creative. We transform walls into canvases and produce rhymical poems from pain, so it was not surprising when a 16-year-old high school sophomore named Rayvon learned about the studio and asked me if I could teach him to make the Hip-Hop music he loved.
I agreed to teach Rayvon and — just 10 minutes into our first studio session — I saw how powerful the platform of music production was with youth in my community. As Rayvon learned how to produce Hip-Hop accompaniment (“Beats”), he dropped his tough façade and we began a conversation that would eventually evolve into an authentic mentoring relationship. Once the word got out that I was trading improved school grades for time in the recording studio, my garage studio was packed with young people from the community. This was the genesis of The David’s Harp Foundation.
Today, art remains the solid platform on which we build these relationships with youth who openly share their artistic dreams and our talented Artist Mentors who help to channel that creativity into effective programming and real opportunity. These relationships are the ripple effects that are not only changing our communities but also the systems our students are navigating.