Meriden teens learn about music biz while cutting single ‘Around We Go’

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MERIDEN — After dedicating two months to a music production workshop, a group of seven city students wrote, produced, and filmed a music video for their first single “Around We Go.” 

The eight-week program was a collaboration between the youth organization Ball Headz and K.C. Conklin, who is known as KC Makes Music. Conklin is also the owner of Brightside Creative, a music production studio located at 290 Pratt St. 

Students started the program on Jan. 17. Throughout the eight weeks, they used the creative outlet to produce a song that related to the struggles they are facing.

“The outline is, we’ll give them a few instrumentals to choose from and let them vote on which one they want,” Conklin said. “Then we come up with a melody or idea for the message of the song. I always try to get them to talk about something of substance, their real struggles and issues they face at their age.”

Amaliah Soto, Brendan Stankiewicz, Jaxon Mitchell, Selena Gutierrez, Kelianny Gonzalez, Jaqueline Gonzalez and Heaven Millio Rodriguez are the students who participated in the workshop.

“While brainstorming what message we wanted to sing about, we decided that it was “life is a roller coaster” and we wanted it to be relatable and upbeat,” Soto said. She is an eighth-grader at Lincoln Middle School, where she is part of the choir and drama club.

“It was exciting because I love music and I have been singing since I was a little girl,” she added.

Soto got involved with Ball Headz because of her mother. Her mother wanted her to get to know the community and take advantage of opportunities.

Stankiewicz, 17, and a junior at Maloney High School, joined the program because he is currently taking two music classes at school.

“I’m taking music tech and choir,” he said. “I wanted to see what the process was like because I plan on doing music production when I go to college.”

Overall, Stankiewicz enjoyed the experience and felt comfortable.

“Some of the kids were nervous,” said Justin Mitchell, founder of Ball Headz. “But we have a great support system here and they eventually felt confident in the booth.”

On March 16, the students were able to bring their families to the studio, where they all watched the final cut for the first time.

“It was amazing and emotional,” Mitchell said. “One person was even crying.”

The music video was released to YouTube on May 4 for the public.

The collaboration

Mitchell and Conklin met while collaborating with a previous group in 2018. Conklin eventually started his music program in 2019, working with many youth organizations.

Mitchell said when he saw Conklin, he knew he wanted to work with him in the future. “I was like, when I get my program up and running, I have to bring him into a collaboration,” he said. This was Conklin’s first time having a group of teens work inside his studio. Usually Conklin is the one traveling to them.

The collaboration was possible due to a $6,000 grant from the James H. Napier Foundation.

Conklin has also made several appearances at Ball Headz, where he shared his journey as an artist.

“My passion for music started seven years ago when I got sober,” he said. Conklin struggled with drug addiction and alcohol, and shares his experience with students to show them that having a positive outlet, whether music or not, leads to positive opportunities.

“When I started, I released a couple songs that did pretty well and I started doing shows and touring around the country,” Conklin said.

According to Conklin, when he dropped his first album “Powerless” in 2018, it hit number 72 on the iTunes Hip Hop charts. Then he wrote another song called “Sober” with another Connecticut artist, Jordan Meyer.

Ball Headz

Sponsoring this music program was important to Mitchell because he wanted the kids to know there are ways to achieve your goals.

“At Ball Headz, students focus on community service and character development,” Mitchell said. “I want to show students what it means to be a role model, good citizen, good son, good daughter, and a good person in the community.”

In addition to the Music Program, Ball Headz has a youth leadership program, which averages around 20-25 kids. The kids learn about financial awareness, emotional intelligence, and lifestyle choices.


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