The Upbeat Academy Foundation began three years ago as a way to provide music instruction to at-risk children in New Orleans. The purpose was to give them an opportunity to learn how to make the music they listen to and enjoy. Over the years, it has become more than a way to teach kids how to create music, it’s also serving as a method of increasing the self-esteem of the students as well as inspiring them to become positive influences in their own communities.
Students at Upbeat Academy learn the basics in music production and work mostly within the hip hop and electronic genres. Upbeat Academy provides its students with a well-rounded education in everything from music theory to writing lyrics. This is to ensure they gain all of the intel and know-how to become successful artists in the music industry. Classes run consistent with the academic school year and cover an extensive curriculum on all aspects of the music industry, not only limited to music production, but to the business side as well.
Upbeat Academy gives students the opportunity to learn using top-of-the-line equipment, computers, keyboards, drum pads, turntables and samplers. The students are also able to rotate and learn through different music production software such as FL Studio, Logic Pro X, Maschine and Ableton, to gain real hands-on experience in the same programs used by music industry professionals. Upbeat instructors also stress basic piano technique, which is a primary tool in producing hip hop and electronic music.
Not only are the students at Upbeat Academy getting to work on the best equipment and software, but they are also learning from the best. Director, Matthew Zarba, hails from a musical background in hip hop and rap and lead instructor Amahl Adbul-Khaliq aka AF THE NAYSAYER is an electronic producer and a major player in the local music scene. Upbeat Academy also frequently brings in guest instructors like producer, rapper and visual artist Nesby Phips and graphic artist Monica Rose Kelley to work with the students in various dimensions of music production and design.
Upbeat Academy creates an oasis for students who are interested in music production and the program is making a difference in the lives of its students. The Academy boasts a 100% high school graduation rate which means all of its participants have graduated from high school. Former students have gone on to attend the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) and some continue their musical arts education after high school. 2016 graduate, Chad Roby, attends the Savannah College of Art and Design and returns to Upbeat as a paid instructor during breaks. Another student attends Full Sail University, a prestigious media arts college, in Orlando.
The instructors and students maintain close relationships after they graduate the program and many former students continue to book studio time and work with each other on various musical projects. These young producers leave the program more equipped to take on not just the music industry, but life as well. The influence of Upbeat on its students is ongoing and despite their different backgrounds, they all come together for the love of music.