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Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio introduce new music initiative, 'Opening Track'

Beginning September 20, students from four local Boys and Girls clubs will join the "Opening Track" pilot program.

CLEVELAND — The Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio is implementing a new music initiative called "Opening Track" this month. 

Opening Track aims to introduce its participants to the different avenues of music and the industry, allowing them to explore the craft beyond learning how to play an instrument. 

The program was created by New Zealand native, Geoff Tanner, who after learning that Cleveland ranked among the worst cities in the nation for child poverty, wanted to increase his community impact through the holistic healing power of music. 

Beginning September 20, students from four local Boys and Girls clubs will join the "Opening Track" pilot program. Through the program, organizers hope that the students involved learn to see music as "a path to better life, instead of just a fun way to pass the time." 

“It’s using music to help kids discuss cultural issues, deal with stress and trauma, prepare for test-taking, using music to help kids perform and build confidence, getting kids out of the Clubs to visit the Rock Hall and the symphony – that’s the thinking behind this program,” said Tanner.

Opening Track will be directed by Kim Shemo, a former schoolteacher and Club director who holds a bachelor’s degree in music and vocal performance. The program will focus on the following facets of music: 

  • Using music to discuss and learn about cultural issues
  • Using music to develop creative skills
  • Using music to help build confidence
  • Encouraging movement with music
  • Using music to deal with stress and trauma
  • Using music to help with test-taking and performance
  • Bringing youth together with music
  • Exposing youth to new people, places, and things through music
  • talking about music and culture to develop communications skills

However, this type of program doesn't come cheap, but fortunately for Tanner, who serves as the chief commercial and marketing officer for Orrville-based company, J.M. Smucker, that wasn't an issue for long. He reached out to leadership at Smucker to see if they would be interested in providing seed money for the initiative and the response was better than he could've hoped. 

“Unequivocally, out of the gate, (the answer was) yes,” Tanner said. “The company is very committed to helping the community, in particular helping kids and helping kids in the arts. It is one of the areas in which we focus.”

The program is also supported by the Opening Track Collective, a mission-based band featuring Turner and local musician, Chad Hoffman. Together, the two wrote and recorded "hopeful and optimistic" songs at Superior Sound Studios in Cleveland. While there, they were introduced to multi-platform producer, Jim Wirt who was more than willing to "record the music and help the mission." 

Through the partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs, Turner and Hoffman were able to invite several kids to the studio to provide background vocals for three songs. 

“It’s so cool to have anybody sing your songs, but it is really special that these kids are going to be on a song that gets played who knows where. They’re going to be able to look down the road and say, ‘I’m on that song,’” explained Hoffman. 

Opening Track has also garnered the support of Grammy award-winning artist Ludacris. In a video endorsing the program, the artist and actor explains the initiative and goes on to share how music has impacted his life and what he hopes it will do for the children involved. 

"Without music in my life, I don't know where I'd be today. So I hope these kids coming up will be just as inspired by music as I am. So, let's help these kids out and make a difference.

For more information on the Opening Track Program or The Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio, click the aforementioned key words. 


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