Young Beat Makers: A Colorado Non-Profit Fights Boredom Through the Joy of Music
For those who are lost, confused, lonely, or just plain bored, music has always been a force for young people around the world to find a sense of community, fully realize their creative souls, and get away from any kind of negative influence in their lives. Through music, kids as young as four years old can discover who they are through a mutual love of the art, its creation, and the joy it brings to their lives and others. For Tyler Manning and the Boredomfighters, that’s what music is all about.
The Boredomfighters are a non-profit organization who regularly establish music workshops at schools across Colorado, creating a safe space for underprivileged youth to find purpose and express themselves through music, becoming beatmakers and event holders in their own right. Through the joy of music and throwing festivals, “boredom”, a term used broadly by Tyler to describe any kind of negative influence in a young person’s community, whether that be street violence, drugs, just plain unfulfillment, can be alleviated.
We at the Rooster spoke with Tyler about the organization and their mission to spread the joy of music creation and production to underprivileged youth in Colorado, as they are scaling up their profile and organization on a whole.
Rooster: Tell me a little about the recent efforts for the organization, with the fundraising event, new website, and new scaling efforts.
Tyler: It’s been a big couple of years and growing, and a lot of people coming in wanting to help, and it’s great. We have all these resources and all these people who want to help, and those who are catching wind of what we are offering, and their reaching out for help. It’s been really big for infrastructure over the past year or so, expanding the board, learning how to delegate. For a while, I was the only one who could lead a workshop that we’re hosting, but now we are training other people, getting people to lead to outreach. A lot of what we launched was a fundraiser to help us people to run those kinds of things, as well as infrastructure for us to invest in capital leaders. The Good Producer program I’m really stoked about because we’ve done a lot of workshops where we’re going into the schools, and we’re meeting these kids, we’re like, “Hey, music production,” and they’re like, “Woah, this is cool!” And then it’s left there, and so this program is setting up to be an opportunity for longevity. So if a kid gets sparked, and they’re interested in music production, we have mentors that are available for like a long-term role model system. So they can sign up for the program, get assigned a role model, and then that Good Producer is their person who meets with them once a month on a Zoom call and hears what they’ve been working on. It’s really gonna expand the impact out. We also dropped our Mic Summit, it’s a music industry collaborative summit. It’s in Colorado for festival producers, because a big part of our push is to expand outside just music production and give kids, especially young adults, the tools they need to throw festivals, and that’s where we all came from. We all found purpose in throwing festivals and providing community events.
Rooster: Tell me a little about yourself, your background musically, where you’re from, and your personal involvement in the origins of the Boredomfighters.
Tyler: I’m from Indiana,a little corn town called Elkhart in an area called Michiana. A town where there wasn’t a lot of stuff going on, and that’s sort of where the whole Boredomfighters thing originated from. Seeing a lot of my friends get in trouble, or have issues with drugs, and just things that happen in towns where there isn’t much going. Did some traveling, found that other cities have the same problem. Ended up in Colorado where there’s not much of a boredom problem, and I moved here so I could get involved in the music industry. That led to working at ARISE Music Festival and a few others, and starting a festival in Michigan for the people in my
hometown that didn’t have a whole lot to do. That was an organization called Forward Momentum, and it became our livelihood for a few years. We started to split it up into different departments of brands, like a record label called MorFlo. All the stuff we were doing, we started to own our roles, and everything just naturally happened, making all these industry connections. We started doing all these festivals, we figured we’d start setting up studios in the camp grounds of these festivals, then we got invited to a school, and we were like, “Wow! This is impactful!” I shifted my efforts into starting Boredomfighters. I have a music project called gar den boi, and that’s kind of derivative of the Instrument Garden, a workshop that we do.
Rooster: What does an average day at a Boredomfighters workshop look like?
Tyler: The whole workshop can be done in an hour. Sometimes two hours, sometimes a weekend-long immersive, or we do a week-long camp. No experience necessary. We’re just trying to give people the experience of being in a studio, and that whole thing is so impactful. We often are going to places where the music programs are lacking, and that’s sort of our goal, is to find those places where they aren’t very motivated to spend money on programs, or they don't have it.
We set up that base level studio, wherever that may be, in a school or at a festival. It’s a computer with Ableton on the big screen, some speakers, some digital toys, instruments, a microphone and a stand. We walk people through recording some sounds of the environment to make organic drums. Once we have a beat, we start to record melodies, and we play with the instruments, and just empower people to play the instruments. The words we toss around a lot are “music empowerment.” It’s like, here’s a guitar, here’s how you hold it, make some noises with it, and we’ll show you that whatever noises you make with it can be used. You don’t need to be this expert level musician to make something fun. So then we have the instrumental flowing, we got a vibe that we’ve set with the melody. We kind of prompt the group in vocal writing, with coming up with a theme. We then guide them through the process of making a hook, we all do the hook together. Then we give a breakout group for whoever is in the workshop to come up with their own verses. They come up to the mic, spit their verses. And our producers are just crazy. They’re just chopping and gathering these samples, turning it into a song right in front of these people, so you see it all on Ableton.
Rooster: Among the kids who participate, are there any kinds of music they gravitate towards, that they like?
Tyler: I think it just depends on the environment. A majority of the kids are gravitating towards hop-hop, electronic music, or pop. When we’re going to a lot of these schools in inner-city areas, a lot of the kids are gravitating towards hip-hop. We do this thing called a chicken-neck, where we play a metronome and everyone is learning to bob their head to a rhythm, and we ask them their name and their favorite musician, and hip-hop is definitely a big one. We have these rap battles, and these kids mimic the flow of modern rappers very well. A lot of them like Marshmello and these mainstream DJs, and every once in a while we’ll meet some kids who know about some underground dubstep artist. You get some kids who like Led Zeppelin, like they like what their parents like.
Rooster: What can people expect this upcoming summer for Camp Boredomfighters?
Tyler: It’s an immersive studio experience for a week-long period in the mountains. The whole beats, melodies, vocals thing, we all break that out into a day-for-day thing. In the workshops, we do that in 15-20 minutes, but when we have a full week, we do beats day, melodies day,
vocals day, and then performance day. We wake up, we have a performance on the steps as the kids are lining up for breakfast. That performance relates to what we’re teaching that day. Then we have our session time, teaching them for a few hours. We set up different studios around the camp, the kids get separated by their age group, and they go into three or four person studios, and they work on their own songs. We’ll do an hour of group instruction, an hour of breakout groups, they have lunch, and then they do camp stuff for the rest of the day. They do hiking, shooting bow and arrow, kayaking. Thursday is when we do performance day. We take the songs that we’ve made throughout the week, then we bring in the Funktion-Ones that night. We’ll have an LED wall, lasers and a Hennessey rig. It’s very over-the-top. The kids get to play the music they made that week in front of the rest of camp, because our camp goes on while there’s like another 150 kids onsite for like traditional camp. The kids from our class get to play their music and they learn how to DJ that morning. They play it for the rest of camp, 100 screaming campers in front of this professional, high-quality production, truly the experience of what it's like to perform their music. It’s just magical. We just launched the double-capacity camp, and it sold out before we could even market it. We’re going to do two weeks next year.
Rooster: Can you tell a little about the Studio Online aspect of the Instrument Garden?
Tyler: We wanted to start doing videos [for music training]. It started before quarantine, we started talking about installing studio spaces in schools where they don’t have them, setting them up and then leaving them there. They can just walk up to the studio, there’s a user interface, they log in, they can track their progress on how far through our curriculum they are. Then quarantine hit, and we were like, “Whoa, we definitely need to do these videos.” We started producing this series, and it was right around the time that The Midnight Gospel came out. We had a hit with Gregrey Miller [illustrator for the show]. He did a lot of the background animation and character stuff. I saw Midnight Gospel and thought, “Wow, this is such a great style.” He’s been a part of the organization ever since. He created this world with us that is an animated space, and the whole thing with the world is you go through the journey of setting up the studio, making hot beats, recording freeform melodies, speaking your truth, and sharing your music. As a team, we took our time with it, rather than putting it out as a response to quarantine, so we’re beta testing it right now. I’m also teaching on this network called Beanstalk, an online class where I teach kids over Zoom how to make beats from the Instrument Garden, and it’s crazy. These kids are three through six. I’ll be on a Zoom call with twenty kids who are less than six years old, and I had Ableton pulled up behind me in green screen-weather man style, and I’m sampling the noises from kids in the Zoom directly into Ableton so they can see the noises form behind me, and I’m like, “What color do you want your layer to be? Should we add echo or reverb?” And these kids are like, “OK, pull up Ableton. I want a red layer, I want you to add echo to my sound.” And they’re beatboxing. They're so young, and using music production terms. I’m teaching on this network three times a week now. They’re starting to bring in the big guns from the cartoon world. They just hired a lady that was at Nickelodeon for 12 years and a big part of the cartoons that we love, and they just hired the lady who ran the Minions campaign. It’s a big cauldron right now of what’s possible there with creating an actual animated series and taking it to another level.
Rooster: The future creation of a venue, which is looking to be constructed in rural Michigan, what does Boredomfighters hope to realize with this space?
Tyler: Ideally, we can build the space, prove the concept, and then build more of them, kind of like on a Meow Wolf model, where it’s like an art park. You go to this place, you come for the day, and you make music on all these creative and working installations related to making music, and fusing that festival installation culture with an immersive space to learn how to make
music and throw festivals. Having a space that we can practice having festivals at, and using it as our canvas for teaching people how to throw festivals, that requires a venue. It’s really hard to do that while renting a space every time. If we have a place that we can build up the festival over time, instead of booking a place, setting it up, tearing it down, leaving and coming back the
next year, every year, it’s not sustainable. We really want to have a place that we can work on, and also have an incubator for Instrument Gardners, when we’re going to be training for the workshop.
The Indiegogo this year is a practice run for us. It’s really important to invest in people that can help run Boredomfighters, because I’m doing 10-12 hour days doing admin stuff regularly for free, and a lot of other volunteer work. Getting ourselves funded for the year, to be able to pay for these chapters to be able to support themselves. Invest in people so the opportunities can be reached. Our opportunities for generating revenue and providing impact are there, we just need to be able to staff them. We raise the money to be able to fulfill our current demand, and once we’ve raised that money, and we have this whole year to really get some floating underneath Boredomfighters as a consistent, sustainable entity, then we use all of our team building exercises, our abilities, and our infrastructure that we have to then launch a much larger crowdfunding campaign that focused on building the space. Next year, starting to push the vision for the venue space, and using this year to dial everything and work on the business plan for what that needs to be, so we can source the capital to make it happen.
If you would like to donate to the Boredomfighters and “#HELPKIDSMADEBEATS”, go to boredomfighters.org