No sleep till Brooklyn

No sleep till Brooklyn

Haley Seymour, Co-Editor

Andy “A-Dog” Williams was a creative and generous man with a passion for music, skateboarding, and art. He was known for his musical talent as a DJ and turntablist. In December 2012, he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. The only cure was a bone marrow transplant. Andy was mixed race, therefore his possibility of finding a bone marrow donor was 1 in 20 million.

The Friends for A_Dog Foundation helped Andy with benefits and his bone marrow transplant. When Andy passed away in December 2013, the foundation became a non-profit organization in order to remember him.

David Rider, history teacher at BFA, was Andy’s former teacher. He also is a large part of the Friends for A_Dog Foundation.

“Well, I was Andy’s teacher 27 years ago. I enjoyed going to hear him play music, I used to enjoy going to hear him DJ. I wouldn’t talk with him, I wouldn’t say I had a friendship with him but I was just like a fan. And then after he passed away, I decided to get involved with the program, specifically with the scholarship at BFA. So I was asked to take over the scholarship for the foundation, and then since then I have, kind of, developed for the program,” Rider said.

As Rider mentioned, one of the missions of the foundation is to give a BFA student a scholarship in Andy’s memory. This scholarship goes to a graduating senior who has “a passion for creating music, visual art, videography/photography, [or] dance.”

Rider explained the purpose of the foundation, as well as why he is involved.

“Andy was a person who was a creative artist who was very open about the kind of artist he was, even when he knew that it made him, like, a minority. No one was into hip-hop in Saint Albans 30 years ago, it just wasn’t here. And he was kind of a brave pioneer as an artist, true to his identity as an artist. And we’re so proud of our students when they become that real person that they really are, that authentic person. To me, sometimes that can be an act of bravery, especially when your authentic self doesn’t look like 99 percent of everyone else’s authentic selves. So I’ve just always respected that and admired that and Andy and all artists for that matter. So if I can do a little something to help kids, help them become that person that is already inside them, in which they’re true to their values and beliefs and talents, that’s kind of a cool thing to do. And that’s why I’m involved in it,” Rider said.

Rider also explained the different missions for the Friends for A-Dog Foundation.

“And having said that, we have many different missions within the foundation. So we do bone marrow donor registries. So Andy got leukemia, and he received a bone marrow transplant, and that actually helped him get better. As a racial minority, it was very difficult for Andy to get bone marrow because he was Filipino, African American, white, it was super hard to have that match. So part of our mission is bone marrow registry for people to become potential bone marrow donors to literally save someone’s life. We do programming at the King Street Youth Center in Burlington, although that work is with new Americans or refugees from all over the world. We do skate camps down at the skatepark in Burlington that’s named after Andy. And, we do DJ camps here and in Burlington for students to develop music making and music production skills. And we have the scholarship. So we have a multi-tiered mission, really four different lanes of services that are very different from each other. But, that’s how we work as an organization,” Rider said.

One of the missions that Rider works on are the DJ camps. One of the projects he is currently working on is a field trip in which the foundation would send six BFA students to Brooklyn to a DJ camp hosted by a foundation called Building Beats.

“I had an idea, and I asked our board if we could do this, and they said yes. So this is a Dave Rider Initiative for sure; I’m not saying that boastfully, but I’m saying that I’m proud of the fact that the rest of my board was supportive of me. Building Beats does the same type of DJ camps in New York that we do in Saint Albans. So I got the idea that, how about we take some of our kids from Vermont down to New York for a DJ camp, and then this summer, they can send some kids up to us with our artists. So we’re hoping to build, like, an exchange program. So it would be nice to see us developing our relationship with these folks in New York. And if this works, and we have a satisfactory new relationship with our new friends in New York, there’s another organization in Miami that does this, there’s another organization in Los Angeles that does this. So, we might be looking to take this more on the national level, but baby steps, let’s try one step at a time. If our trip to Brooklyn is successful, we might use this as a model to continue to develop our relationship with other organizations,” Rider said.

Building Beats’ mission is: “We envision a world where any individual, regardless of their origin, can pursue their passion and build a career out of it. To realize this vision, we empower individuals and help them become self-sufficient, create producers that will benefit their community while leading personally fulfilling lives.”

Rider also explained that they don’t necessarily expect students to follow this path, but they want to open students’ eyes to a new art form.

“So one of the first things that our camp counselors say to kids is: ‘I’m a DJ, I’m a rapper, I’m a beat maker’. We don’t care whether our campers go on to do that specific stuff, we just want to introduce them to a new artistic expression that may or may not appeal to them. But the overarching message that we have to our campers, as young artists, is to be true to that real person that you are inside. You should be able to express your artistic, creative talent, even if it doesn’t look like anybody else’s, as long as that’s true to your authentic, real self. That can help make the world a better place, in my view. The world needs more art,” Rider said.

The trip is also paid for completely by the Friends for A_Dog Foundation.

“This is not a BFA trip, this is not a school-sponsored trip. Zero school funds are going to this, and also, by the way, no camper is paying for this trip, as well. All of the transportation, all of the lodging, all of their programming is being paid for by our foundation, and I’m very proud of the fact that no kid has ever had to pay for any programming that we offer. So we have six great kids, three young women, three young men, they all are in different stages of their artistic careers and development. One of them has already released an album on Spotify, the other kids just want to dip their toe in the water and see what this is all about,” Rider said.

Rider believes that field trips and experiences like these are very important to student learning, specifically because of new opportunities.

According to an article by TeachThought, there are many benefits to field trips for students. It says that students are excited to learn in an unusual environment, learning can be interest-driven rather than driven completely by the educator, and it stimulates more curiosity and desire to learn for the student.

“BFA offers a lot, to lots of different people. If you’re an athlete, we have resources for you. If you are into the technical side, there are resources for you. I’d like to think we offer a lane or an avenue for resources for kids who are non-traditional in their path, because we all can use help getting to where we want to go in life. That wasn’t a knock on athletics, I’m not begrudging those resources, I’m glad those kids have that. But, we’re just trying to, maybe, create an opportunity for the less traditional student to really grow and develop as a person,” Rider said.

Declan Couture (’19) is one of the students who Mr. Rider asked to go on the trip to Brooklyn. He explains why he was chosen to go on this field trip.

“Well I ended up, when DJ Endo came in to perform and do the whole workshop, I got the chance to film for it, so we got that all on video. And Mr. Rider saw me filming for it, and was just like ‘hey, you look like you’re interested in this, we’re planning this trip to New York, do you want to go on that?’ And I had previous experience with [and] knew about the A_Dog Foundation because in [Digital] Video Production my first year we all edited a little video for the foundation. And it was really cool learning about it. So I had known about it, and he brought it up to me and was like ‘yeah absolutely, it has to do with music, so sure.’ I’m not a DJ, but I like music, so I think it’ll be neat to explore that,” Couture said.

Couture feels that this experience will help him with his future music career.

“For me, my biggest plan is music, currently. I don’t see myself being a DJ in the future, but I feel like a lot of it goes over with like producing music, like it’s in the same wheelhouse as that. And learning about other ways that people make music can help me have a bigger sight of what other people are doing and how to make something special, I guess,” Couture said.

Couture also agrees with Rider that there are not many experiences like this one at BFA.

“I absolutely think there should be [experiences like this at BFA]. From what I know, there isn’t. This isn’t run through BFA, but I mean we have the band trip, that’s a little different. That’s geared more towards that kind of music, where it’s like we don’t get to see very much culture. This trip’s a little different because, like, we’re going on a graffiti tour to explore that part of it. The whole origin of hip-hop and everything goes with that area. And we’re going to learn all about that and also do some hands-on stuff,” Couture said.

Couture supports the idea of different music classes being added to the BFA curriculum.

“Maybe something more like a class that focuses on other types of music, or sort of a music through history type of class where you learn not just about one that you’re specifically interested in or one specific one that everyone learns, but sort of like a broad selection [and] everybody goes through all of them. Or maybe just like a hands-on experience, where instead of like a band instrument type setup, maybe something that focuses more on recording and layering with making music on your own type of thing. Or songwriting or something like that,” Couture said.

The trip begins on April 22, 2019, and the BFA Mercury wishes Couture and the five other students good luck. 

(And thanks to the Beastie Boys for the headline!)