A studio apartment is where Zumix got its origins back in 1991. Its co-founders, Bob Grove and Madeleine Steczynski, had a vision: a music program created to combat a wave of “youth violence” across Boston and a safe space where kids could come to learn about music and musical instruments.
The program has come a long way since those early days when a divider was the only thing separating the co-founders’ living quarters from the music studio. The initial concept still prevails: how adults can bring East Boston kids the opportunity to learn about music and gain the life skills that come along with it.
Where Zumix Is Today
The program, which is now run out of a renovated firehouse, serves kids from ages seven to 18, from as nearby as East Boston and as far away as Framingham and Lynn.
Daniel Fox, a former Zumix employee and owner of Wondersmith Audio, tells Parentology how the program has evolved since he first joined in 2002. Back then, he helped build the program’s technology and creative media operations. Although Fox has moved on from his original position at Zumix, he still volunteers as a mentor, believing bringing music into the lives of kids and teens is vital.
Who Zumix Services
“Music education can start from day one,” Fox says. Zumix’s younger students, ages seven to 12, are known as Sprouts.
Fox’s focus on technology saw him working more closely with Zumix’s teen students. “Music technology is more of a teen thing, requiring the abstract thinking skills that come with being a teen,” he explains.
Overall, Fox says, Zumix’s goal, “is to create youth development through music and the arts.” Adding there’s a good deal of workforce development and teaching kids how to communicate and use other life skills involved in the program.
Teaching Life Skills Through Music
One of Zumix’s highlights is its availability to other organizations for help with sound reinforcement. Through the mentor program, “youth technicians” can take a semester of training and join professionals on “gigs” where they will get hands-on experience out in the field by assisting with these sound reinforcement jobs. Fox says the teens get paid for their participation, but more importantly, learn real-life skills while on the job.
The instructors also teach interpersonal skills that will serve the teens throughout their lives: how to make proper introductions, looking co-workers in the eye when speaking and how to set expectations.
Teaching Teens What They Want to Learn
While Fox says guitar and piano lessons will always be popular, Zumix has had a lot of success in branching out and offering what kids today are interested in learning. They offer songwriter lessons geared towards both rock and hip hop, as well as teaching students how to make electronic music and use synthesizers.
Fighting Stereotypes in Music
Another goal of Zumix — dismantling stereotypes that surround sound engineers. The program is encouraging young women to get more involved in a professional sector women have historically discouraged from pursuing.