BackSpinz is a creative music education program focused on changing students’ lives by redirecting their energy into their passion for music. During a 16-week evidence-based STEAM program, students are exposed to financial literacy, music production, DJing (audio engineering), the music business, and music recording. Powered by a wide variety of partnerships, including Soundtrap, the Rap Snacks Foundation, The Culture Studios, and others, BackSpinz is positioning itself as an all-inclusive student learning center with connections to the music business.
Creator and educator Claude Whitfield Jr. believes in providing a space where a new generation of students thrive, create, and learn to share their works with peers to understand the value of constructive collaboration. He has teamed up with organizations like the Rap Snacks Foundation to teach students to become better artists while understanding the business side, even providing practice budgets as learning mechanisms to help with money management.
A Start with Soundtrap and All About the Beatz Competition
This year Claude and his team were introduced to Soundtrap as a fit for recording. The students in BackSpinz quickly learned the ins and outs of the program. Claude was struck by the adaptability of Soundtrap to the teaching process. “From an educator’s perspective, there were so many tools to collaborate with the students. I was able to take them through how to use Soundtrap’s full lesson plan. Once they got to a place where they started creating beats on their own, it was time to push it to the limit,” he says.
The All About the Beatz competition was launched with Soundtrap as a centerpiece. Eight students were asked to produce their own beats using Soundtrap as their tool for recording. Claude avoided diving into elaborate song structures for the initial All About the Beatz and instead focused on the imaginative and spontaneous creation of beats and recording. Students enjoyed the creative process, and the competition provided added incentive to do their best work.
Competition in Two Parts
The competition was twofold. The first competition was a People’s Choice Award, stressing the importance of social media learning. Students submitted their music on the BackSpinz website, and people went on and voted. “For a week and a half, we ran that voting process, and those eight students brought in 35,675 votes, which was very impressive. It [made me think] who has the engine behind them? It was really cool,” said Claude.
The second part of the competition was the main All About the Beatz showcase, judged by DJ Kidd, DaBaby’s producer, and DJ. The winner of the competition is given an opportunity to do a one-on-one session with DJ Kidd. Adding to the excitement of this first-year launch is the promise of two superstar youngsters who are producing remixes and full tracks inside Soundtrap. “Both of them will have an opportunity to submit their music for placements for DaBaby,” says Claude. “It’s exciting that at just 15 and 16 years old, they have an opportunity to do that, and they’ve really taken a liking to Soundtrap and all the tools that come with it.” It’s been an exciting journey for Claude and everyone at BackSpinz to see so many young people create and have new opportunities.
The Winner’s Circle
The winners of both competitions were provided a mix of cash awards and gear prizes as appreciation for their hard work. Listen below to audio samples of the winners in both categories:
People’s Choice Award winner:
Carter “DJ Wildcard” Sullivan with his song Wildcardz BEAT
All About The Beatz Competition winner:
Zion Robinson-Seward with his song Mood-3
All About the Beatz II and Looking Ahead
BackSpinz is already in the start-up phase of All About the Beatz II. The numbers for this year have increased to 15 students ranging in ages 10-18 from all walks of life. Through social media and other marketing efforts, Claude and his team have been pushing a 360 approach to the music industry. No matter the concentration of music production, the program focuses on 20 hours of music business education.
There is a built-in emphasis on weaving financial literacy and youth entrepreneurship into the music production equation. Moving away from immediate purchasing into a more long-term approach is part of the learning process. Claude and his team at BackSpinz are melding music production with financial acumen, a practice that is graduating students with both music mastery and life skills to succeed in the future.