Detroit Performs


Young Artists

Urban Stringz trains youth to get funky with their instruments; Young sculpting talent Austen Brantley; And a group of Detroit Public School students use their surroundings to create art. Plus, host DJ Oliver traverses Plymouth’s streets during the Detroit Institute of Arts Inside-Out Art Exhibit. Episode 607.

AIRED: August 01, 2017 | 0:28:08

ANNOUNCER: Funding for Detroit Performs is provided by:

Masco Corporation is proud to manufacture innovative

and environmentally-friendly products for the home.

Delta faucets, KraftMaid and Merillat cabinets and

Behr brand paints have all been designed with you in mind.

Masco and its family of companies serving Michigan

communities since 1929.

Funding is also provided by the Michigan Council

for Arts & Cultural Affairs and the National

Endowment for the Arts, and by contributions to

your PBS station from viewers like you.

Thank you.




Hello, and welcome to Detroit Performs.

I'm your host, DJ Oliver.

And today I'm in Plymouth taking in the Detroit

Institute of Arts Inside Out Art Exhibition.

This program brings high quality reproductions of

masterpieces from the DIA's collection to

outdoor venues throughout Metro Detroit like this one.

This is Indian Summer by Jasper Francis Cropsey.

Our first segment takes us to Wayne State University

where Detroit School the Arts teacher, Cecilia Sharpe,

holds an annual camp for her orchestral group, Urban Stringz.

The Urban Stringz kids come together,

and in just two weeks, they show just how hip and

funky stringed instruments can be.


We're all workin' together just to be a better community,

and we're usin' music to do that.

Without Urban Stringz and without Ms. Sharpe,

I really don't think I would be as far

advanced in many aspects as my life.

Urban Stringz has been an awesome outlet for kids.

We've had all sorts of kids in the camp from Detroit,

Metro Detroit, tough areas, nicer areas,

and, one, it gives kids really an outlet to

express themselves, to sink their attention into,

to get away from their worries,

but also learn how to deal with them.

I learn social skills, how to speak to people.

I learn to put your ego aside.

You need to put your ego down.

It actually brings out my passion for

music while I'm here.


PAUL: Detroit Public Schools, the music isn't

really there right now, you know,

so Urban Stringz is somethin' where it's like,

hey, we're over here and we're urban kids and we're

playing all this cool music, you know,

and it shows that classical instruments can be cool.

They can be used for other things besides classical.

One, two, swing it, and...



CECELIA: Urban Stringz started in 2007 with eight

students in the living room of our house with my

mom cooking for them.

And our first song that we played was SpongeBob

SquarePants and Do Re Mi.

Why I started it is because when I was teaching,

I was teaching kids and I had beginner high schoolers,

there were like 35 kids in a classroom,

35 high schoolers that have never

played a string instrument.



Do high schoolers want to play

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or Mary Had A Little Lamb

or D, D, A, A?

They don't want to play that.

You have to connect to them.

So, I realized that in order for me to connect with them,

for them to even come remotely close to playing this

so-called boring instrument, I was gonna have to

give them music that they could relate to.

And even though they're beginners,

they still want to be relevant and current and

play something that they feel good about.

So, we did that.

Then I gave them music that they liked,

and when they like the music,

they take ownership for it.

So, I started the camp.

ZEN: It's a lot more fun because you actually

know the songs that you're playing,

'cause we're playing Bruno Mars right now.

We've played Beyoncé in the past.

We've played Lady Gaga.

So, it's nice to actually be able to relate to the music.

You know, you can feel it a lot more, there's a lot more

feeling because it's a lot more current to you, you know?

So, with that music, you can still feel the vibe.

THREADA: It's one thing to be classically trained,

but it's another thing to have an edge on the

competition and others your age when you can play

jazz music or contemporary music.

And also, to learn how to play a certain song in two weeks,

it typically takes a whole school year,

kind of helps your development

throughout the process.

And there's not a lot of urban programs that teach

string instruments 'cause, A, they're very expensive.

And also, if you can't afford an instrument or whatnot,

Ms. Sharpe will help you and help you

through this program and this process,

so I think it's also needed for those that may

not have access to it.

In addition to the music part,

I was noticing that kids needed more, more than music.

They needed love.

They needed attention.

They needed food.

They needed someone to listen to them,

someone to say, hey, I really care.


CECELIA: There you go.

That's good!

THREADA: You also learn things like putting yourself

aside and working as a team 'cause in order to

get this music done in two weeks,

you have to be able to listen to other people

both your age and older than you.

You have to be able to take positive criticism.

But please get over your fear of shifting so that

you can play it in tune because once you do,

you'll find that it's going to be easier to play.

This is about getting out of your comfort zone

so that you can do something better.

ZEN: Ms. Sharpe is a great teacher.

I've learned lots of stuff from her.

She really gets it in your head for how she wants you

to play and how you're supposed to express

yourself in a certain part.

That means that part went away.

So, it means you need to fill in the octave higher.

PAUL: You can start in beginner with no knowledge,

and you can work your way up to advanced.

You know, you can do these amazing things.

So, it gives kids a smile on their face when they

just started a week ago and then they're playing a song.

CECELIA: If you're in beginners, you're learning

how to read and what a quarter note is and what a staff is.

Intermediate, they're working on building on their foundation.

And advanced, they're shifting.

They're playing by ear taking the music off the paper.

So, it's not just the musicality of it,

but it's also the maturity that goes with being in each

ensemble or each level.

There's a certain maturity that comes along with it

and awareness as a budding musician.


We have Ms. Julia Stapleton.

She is a retired Detroit Public School Teacher.

And she is the first person who put a cello in my hand.

Bless her heart.

F-sharp, E.

CECELIA: She's very patient.

She works with the beginners.

She's tough and she makes a miracle happen in two weeks.

E, F-sharp really high.

That's it.

CECELIA: Then I have Ms. Natalie Frakes

who teaches intermediate.

She is a dynamite teacher.

One, two, three four, off.

CECELIA: And then I also have Ms. Ashley Nelson who

comes in and she does sectionals,

and she works with the students.

She's a violinist.

Or you could do C-sharp with your third finger and

extend your fourth finger for D-sharp.

CECELIA: This is an extremely intense camp of music.

It's a lot of fun, but it's really

intense because the expectations are high.

At first they're really eager because it is a song they know.

I'll take my class, for example, "Uptown Funk."

They're like, yaaaay, we're about to do "Uptown Funk,"

and then they realize they can't play it.

I mean, you can sing it, but you can't play it.

And it takes them really developing other

techniques or techniques they have and using it in a

different way, because the classical techniques they learn,

they use in this music and then you build on that.

Your theory of knowin' what's a whole step and

what's a half step in the theoretical point on paper

is important because then you apply it when

you get ready to play.

ZEN: When we're playing the Bruno Mars,

we're doing it exactly how the song is played.

So that's really fun just hearing all the different

parts and figuring out how we can bring everybody together.

THREADA: On the first day, it's like, oh my gosh,

like can we add an extra week please 'cause the

kids are not ready?

PAUL: It's gonna be intense, and then

it's almost like, oh my gosh,

we're not gonna do it, but then the intensity turns

into positive intensity.

And then it begins to show through the music,

and the second week it really blossoms.


THREADA: When that final day comes,

your parents are watching you.

Like, you know, they're proud of you.

Everything sounds great.

Like, it's a relief, and it's a good feeling 'cause

you achieved your goal.

And not only did you, your whole orchestra did it.

Your whole class did it.

You guys did it as a team.

CECELIA: It's real energetic kids working together,

coming out on stage with the etiquette,

the concert etiquette, the posture, the presentation,

and then they're bringin' style and funk to it too,

not just the technique, so the parents are really excited,

and I'm really proud of the students after

two weeks because I know how much they've put into it.

I know how much the teachers have put into it.

The kids that go through Urban Stringz,

I hope that--well, I know that they're developing.

I know that this is having a huge impact on them.

The music is just the vehicle to show that you

can think outside the box.

You can be yourself.



DJ: You can learn more about Urban Stringz

as well as all the artists we feature on

Austen Brantley is a young sculpting talent

who is taking the local and national art scene by

storm over the last few years.

Here's his story.


AUSTEN: When Laura came in,

I wanted to capture a certain depth that I think

that she has as an actress.

I picked a pose that was sort of sad and sort of

depressed even though my model isn't.

I picked that pose because I wanted to convey,

just in my mind, I wanted to convey like in my

series that all these pieces have in common is

that they're sort of sad and isolated,

and they're trying to understand why this is

happening, and why they're confused.

These characters are confused because they're

trying to know who they are,

trying to get out of bad situations and live,

explore what they can.

I think of like isolation and breaking out,

I think a lot about Detroit because,

just in general, that's where we are.

We're breaking out.

We are coming out of our shells, our cocoons,

and we are becoming culturally aware

and very much expressive.

And not just arts, but everything.

GAIL: There's something about the figure that just

we all can relate to, and it's so appealing.

And to do it well is really--and with expression,

is really admirable and it's a challenge.

He's just such a young--he's so young.


I think that's something that flabbergasts me.

He's so young to be pulling this out and doin' this.

I mean, he's only 18 for Pete's sake,

and already he's got such skills.

I mean, he's not perfect yet.

None of us are.

But still, what he is pulling out of the clay,

different personalities, different emotions

and expressions.

It can only get better.

It's only gonna get better.

AUSTEN: Before sculpting, I was into athletics.

I also played the alto sax in band and stuff like that.

I was musical.

I tried everything.

I just wanted to find what I wanted to do really.

I just played with clay a lot when I was probably

about 15 years old, and I got in a ceramics class,

and I just liked playing with the clay.

I didn't get the same satisfaction as making a

pot as I did just making a face.

There was like a, this is so new,

like this type of satisfaction was so rare

to me 'cause I've never--like I've always been

a perfectionist, but I didn't know like I could really sculpt.

I never knew I could sculpt.

It was like I looked at sculptures before,

and I was like, how are those even made?

And then I started doing it.

It's a completely weird experience really.

I first met Austen when he stepped into my

ceramics class one day.

He popped his head in and kind of waited around 'til

there was a break, and he came up to me and

introduced himself, and he said he was working on

some sculpture and he was wondering if I could give

him some feedback on his sculpture.

And he had three sculptures set up,

and it really surprised me.

It knocked me over actually because he is so

young and his sculptures were so developed.

This is his first sculpture class basically

as I understood it, and I was just in awe.

AUSTEN: I think at first, I even thought it was sort

of like a hobby and then other people did,

but I sort of really thought that it could

really mean something, something different.

I feel that Austen has a really important role to

play, and this was made clear to me when I went to

the NCECA Conference this year which is the

conference for ceramic education in the arts.

And there's thousands of people there,

and the keynote speaker is Theaster Gates who is a

well-known sculptor.

And he had an inspiring talk where he spoke about

how important the diversity is and how we

all have this calling.

I was just like, Austen.

I know, I should bring Austen here!

You know, we all have choices in life,

and he has chosen the human figure and working

with the human emotions.

And I admire him for that.

And it's a real gift.

And, yes, I think he has a role to play to all

young people in this.

AUSTEN: When I'm looking for inspiration,

I'm looking for something deeper, something emotional.

I try and do the classic tradition,

but also mix up my own sort of style into it.

I look online for source material,

or if I see a face that I think is interesting,

I'll grab that model, or I'll just draw that face

or I'll just imagine that face when I'm sculpting,

and then I sort of put that into the clay.

Not just making a sculpture or doing a portrait,

but making a statement is one of the most

important things to me.

Just as people, we can find something that we really love.

It's just the satisfaction of being able to display

your thoughts in a three-dimensional form.

It's just really great that I can just sort of

talk through the clay.

I get to just put everything that's in my

mind into that piece of clay.

I completed this sculpture.

It's called "I Exist."

It represents American slavery and just a human

being feeling the need to display that he exists;

that he's shouting out, he's reaching out to show

that he is here, that he is a being too.

Just the overall expression of it is

refreshing to me 'cause it took--it didn't even take me

that long to sculpt it.

The idea was so inspiring in my mind,

that it was so easy.

That to me exhibits this hunger that he has and

this passion for his art and craft.

He has visited any number of well-known artists locally.

I know he just recently got back from Toledo

visiting an artist.

AUSTEN: I met a master sculptor.

His name is Woodrow Nash.

And the most memorable thing that he told me is

that the clay will reveal itself to me;

that I have to discover myself in the clay.

I have to discover my own voice in the clay.

And that I'm only limited by my own ability to create.

And when I heard that, I was like,

this is what I wanna do.

This is where I belong.

I love his pieces actually in the raw state.

That's probably my favorite point is as they are

emerging out, there's something in that that leaves,

that's a mystery to it, but you also wonder about,

and I like that part of his work where he is

putting expression in.

But then at the same time, he's letting the clay show

the natural physical properties of the clay.

AUSTEN: I really believe in conquering your fears

and also getting through obstacles.

Just for every person, I think every person has it

different, but I think every person is trying to

get where they want to in life.

And to be able to actually sculpt it out,

like when I'm actually sculpting something,

I'm sort of sculpting my life.

I'm making it.


So how nice is it to cruise down the streets of downtown

Plymouth and see a legendary painting from Van Gogh.



Now, let's check out some upcoming events happening

in and around the D.



Our next segment takes us to Cass Tech High School

where a group of students were inspired by the

Heidelberg Project to create art of their own.

Check it out.


MARILYN: We've always tried to be on the

cutting edge of theatre here at Cass mainly because we're

one of the few schools with a performing arts department.

I think that what's interesting about our director,

Ms. McCormick, is that since she's been here,

she's touched probably every musical that's out there

that high schools are allowed to do and even

some that we aren't.

MARILYN: We've done so many things.

I thought what better story to tell than our own?

We started hearing about news in Detroit about the

burning down of the Heidelberg Projects, and it

was like, why not tell the story that's going around us?

MARILYN: As we were sitting around talking about

all of this, I just thought, Oh, I'll show them these

pictures 'cause I don't know how many of them were

even aware of the Heidelberg Project,

but I thought it would just cause them to start

thinking about things.

I had no idea that it would affect them the way that it did.

IMARI: We started breaking into groups,

and we all picked a house and then we picked a story

to go with the house, like a family that lived there,

and we had to choose who was gonna live

there and what they're gonna go through.

MARILYN: I thought, it's inspired by the

Heidelberg Project.

Wouldn't it be cool if Tyree knew about this?

And so I said to the kids, find a phone number.

We just have to call.

And the woman I was speaking to,

Margaret Gray, said, that's wonderful.

Go for it.

And I'm going to arrange for Tyree to meet with the kids,

and they can experience the Heidelberg Project.

The Heidelberg Project has always been a big thing,

probably one of the many good things that Detroit

has left when so many other was being

burned down, tore down.

And yet, Tyree Guyton who created the

Heidelberg Project, he's still going.

We see that Detroit is being burned down.

It may be physically, maybe emotionally, mentally.

Now we can work with Tyree in a way of our

art to build it back up.

NAKIA: And to see him, you know, when we were touring,

to me, that was so profound.

Thank you, guys, for doin' what you're doin'.

I'm so excited.

I can't wait to see it.

NAKIA: Because he has taken such a loss on his art.

But he's so determined, and he believes in this city.

He believes that there is a good to be had here,

and that something great can come from us.

The musical is called Headlines Up from the

Ashes: The Experience.

You only hear the bad headlines that's comin'

out of Detroit right now.

That's how we got headlines, and we got the experience

because we want this not to be a typical musical.

We want the audience to experience something that

they never encountered.


CLAUDIA: Everything is original and from the cast,

the music, the choreography, the story,

the characters, the story behind the houses.

This musical is going through the history of the

city of Detroit and figuring out what went

wrong and what has helped the city,

and trying to look at those and look at that

history and come up with what the city is today and

tryin' to figure out how to get to a point of what

we want it to be.

There's different stories being told in different

ways especially with our music choices.

It's not just one genre.

The way that the story is being told verbally and

physically, it's so different from so many other shows.

The plot of the musical is about a guy named

Dustin who has lost hope.

He is the epitome of Detroit now.

MATTHEW: Just like Detroit going through wrong and right,

he's battling between what's good and what's bad.


MALIK: My character, Edward, he showed the

good guy in Detroit, the good guy and wants

better, but Dustin, he shows where Detroit is

headed if you keep on acting like this.

Throughout the whole entire process,

there are gods, time, love, soul, hope and war.

Throughout the play the gods sort of mold theirselves

with the events that happened in the real world.

If something tragic happens, the gods,

they react to that all together.

BRANDON: We ended it off with somebody about to

create a good process.

We didn't end it off like the problem has been answered.

We don't know the future so we can't dictate if

good is gonna be at the end because we don't know.

All we can do is, just like in the finale,

say this is what we want in order for us to get out

of the ashes that we are in.

Even though like on the poster,

it doesn't say directed by Marilyn G. McCormick.

I feel all of us did a little directing,

but she was the guider, the time director.

What I want is this tempo.

BRANDON: She's like our outside eye looking in.

MARILYN: Guys, come out.

This is not a funeral dirge.

We're not burying something at this point.

We are raising something.

I would say the most challenging song in the

show would have to be the finale number.

We wanted it to be more like a chant.

It wasn't a dragging ballad, or it wasn't,

I'm happy because we are done fighting because we're

not done fighting.

We are marching for the rising of our city.

One thing that we were discussing before we started

creating the musical is how are people gonna take

it after sitting here for two hours and three acts?

Will they walk away feeling like we changed their lives?

And that's our main goal.

RODERICK: Ultimately, I want the audience to walk

away from this experience knowing that we are one unit.

We are connected.

NAKIA: I want people to know that you can fight;

that something good happens here and that we

are the good that happens here.

MATTHEW: I personally want them to walk away feeling

like we can fill those empty lots.

We can rebuild those houses.

We can put back the Heidelberg Project

and recognize the beauty that's in it and in Detroit.

MALIK: I feel theatre is positive to inspire someone

to do that because it's real intimate and it's enclosed.

MARILYN: It brings people together in a way that it

wouldn't normally happen.

IMARI: Well, what I have taken away from the show

is we are a lot stronger than we think we are,

especially once we have other people that we

know we can lean on.

That's mainly what my ensemble has taught me,

and the show itself, it showed me the beauty in

Detroit and how wonderful we all are together.

Even though other people in other cities and other

states, and they're all like looking down on us,

I know that we have a lot of promise.

I want people to understand and realize

that the youth aren't lost;

that they have this ability to make changes,

and they can follow through from the beginning

to the end of something, and do it well.




And that wraps it up for this edition of Detroit Performs.

As always, for more arts and culture, head to where you'll find featured videos,

blogs and information on upcoming arts events.

Also, check us out on Facebook and Twitter.

I'd like to thank the DIA's Inside Out Art

Exhibition for bringing these masterpieces to

different communities in Michigan as well as the

Plymoth Arts and Recreation Complex.

Art is meant to be seen, shared and loved.

And this program allows for it perfectly.

Until next Tuesday, get out there and show the

world how Detroit Performs, y'all.

I'm DJ Oliver.

Thanks for watching, guys.


ANNOUNCER: Funding for Detroit Performs is provided by:

Masco Corporation is proud to manufacture innovative

and environmentally-friendly products for the home.

Delta faucets, KraftMaid and Merillat cabinets and

Behr brand paints have all been designed with you in mind.

Masco and its family of companies serving Michigan

communities since 1929.

Funding is also provided by the Michigan Council

for Arts & Cultural Affairs and the National

Endowment for the Arts, and by contributions to

your PBS station from viewers like you.

Thank you.





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