After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Berklee School of Music Senior Juri Ify Love chose a community service-based senior project that would change her life as much as those she sought to help.
After reading an article about a Los Angeles program that brought journalism to detention center students as a way for them to express themselves, Love took her own background in music to Boston-based youth who were incarcerated and living in small spaces.
“I started thinking about their small cell and came up with the idea of beat sequencing – making small beats in a small space,” says Love. With one volunteer, one computer, one keyboard and one speaker, she launched her idea in Dorchester at the Boys and Girls Club where students weren’t incarcerated, but could benefit from some one-on-one attention learning how to record the beats and sounds that would be the framework for future songs. Nine years later, Genuine Voices is a 501 (c) 3-designated nonprofit with 10 locations around Massachusetts, and national and international recognition for its use of music to give voice to at-risk youth.
Through federal grants and monetary, equipment and time donations, Genuine Voices has grown four programs within the DYS system and this year, will expand to the Department of Children and Families where younger children ages 6-12, could benefit. Musically, students learn to play the piano, create beats over which they layer their own rapping. Emotionally, they’re finding an outlet.
“My background, personally: I came from a very abusive family,” says Love. “My counselor told me [my work with Genuine Voices] is like the best medicine I can take. If it wasn’t for music, I wouldn’t be here.”