When you listen to interviews with successful musicians who were raised in low-income neighborhoods, you hear about how music has changed their lives. Often, that music, as a form of artistic expression, was an escape from gang violence, poverty and drugs.
In the city of Highland, Michigan, a teacher is helping his students use music as a way to take control of their lives. The group, Beasts of the Beat, was formed by Joe Vercellino, also known as “Mr. V,” a music teacher at Northpointe Academy. Vercellino said he created the group to help students grow up to be “strong, dedicated, consistent men.”
“The Beasts of the Beat is really not as much about creating rap stars as it is about creating men,” he told WJBK-TV.
The goal is to help these young members make the right choices, which will eventually determine whether or not these students will be another “statistic” or successful in life. This may seem difficult in a city where the unemployment rate is 24 percent — that’s more than three times the national average — according to The Blaze.
But Vercellino’s students are not giving up that easy. Deshawn Blair is one of eight students choosing to take a different path than some of his classmates. He’s already decided his fate: He wants to be successful.
Although Blair is surrounded by drugs and poverty, he understands that every child can choose to live their life differently from the norm. He said that each kid has to make their own decision.
“It’s your choice whether you wanna make or you don’t,” he says. “Whether you want to be another statistic lying down, another drug dealer that they know about, or you can choose to be somebody successful. And I choose to be somebody successful.”
The Beasts of the Beat are already dropping some tunes, not just locally, but internationally. They have already recorded their first EP that includes the songs, “Let’s Talk,” “Beasts of the Beat,” “Champion,” and “Picking Up the Mess.” The album is available on iTunes for $3.96.
Customers are already leaving positive reviews, including Manny Gee who wrote, “Heard about these kids and Mr. V online and was really touched by their story. I wish there were more fathers and teachers like Mr. V out there. These are the role models that are needed in our society today. Keep up the good work and keep fighting!”
MORE: Why Does This School Let Its Students Record Hip-Hop Tracks?