When I first began promoting myself as an artist online, and on social media, it was as a photographer under the brand “Photography by Dannie B.” During the period of my life when I first began to really apply myself towards building a website and using social media I was actively pursuing a career in photography. Some of the first images I published online were from my study abroad trip to Amsterdam, from fast food worker protests, of poets and artists, and more recently of Ferguson protests.
I’ve been relatively quiet within the space of photography for the past few years because I’ve undergone significant life changes, including the loss of my father. This period of absence has given me an abundance of time to explore, to feel lost at times, and to relearn what I value. Also in this time, I constantly felt a desire to use my camera professionally but always felt a loss of motivation despite encouragement by those closest to me to keep going. I occasionally took my camera out to take picture but didn’t apply myself as I had previously.
In the time I spent not being behind the camera I was occupied by music. Music has been a part of my family for generations with many of my relatives being singers, musicians, and just pure music lovers. It’s safe to say that I was born to be in music. Music has been the most amazing source of healing, history, and aspirations that I’ve experienced in my life, thus far. Music not only encouraged me to move forward in life, it also encouraged me to revisit my past and understand the origins of my creative passions.
Before I considered myself a photographer I was a pure, unfiltered, source of creativity that manifested itself in multiple mediums. I expressed myself through writing, through film, and through whatever tools I could learn to operate. Through a search of my history I was able to trace the origin of my creativity back before college, where I originally said it started, to high school where I first learned to write my thoughts, poetically, and create my own films. Amazingly, some of these wonderful experiences got lost in my desire to pursue new experiences.
I’ve gotten many questions about work that I’ve previously done, especially the work that’s been inspiring to others, and when I’ll return to it. The simple answer is that I can’t return to it. I’ve grown significantly in the past two years and that growth prevents me from seeing my past work with the same perspective that I had when I first created. That work will always be a part of my personal story, just not front and center. However, what I can give in its place is all of the lessons, thoughts, and new perspectives that I’ve gained.
My creativity will be expressed in ways that are similar to those of my past, ways that are new, and ways that are newly rediscovered. Yes, there will still be photography but it may or may not look like what people are used to from me. There will also be more. My mission, and the goal of the Facebook page, “The Real Dannie B,” is to give the most authentic version of myself that I can give and inspire others to do the same. To get a fuller picture of my entire journey and how all of what I said fits together please read my newly revised biography. Thank you for choosing to continue on this journey with me.
Back in August I did my first photography gig that involved me shooting interior design. A family friend reached out to me with a need to photograph her home for the purpose of advertising it on AirBnb. This was a unique request for me because in all my years of being behind a camera I had never shot what would be considered architectural or interior design work, and I had also never considered it. However, I’m always up for a challenge and decided to give it a try. To my surprise, I really enjoyed it.
The day of the shoot, I came prepared with my usual camera gear, plus a tripod, but rather than wearing comfortable shoes I just wore my socks. My client doesn’t allow guests to wear shoes on her carpet so I wore Hanes instead of Nike’s while working.
The first thing I noticed once I started shooting was how peaceful this type of work is compared to some of the other photo work that I’ve done. Coming from a world of shooting in busy cities and protests the quiet of an air-conditioned home was like being in a photographic meditation longue. My mind was free to focus solely on the camera and the space without external distractions. I could also shoot at my own pace without feeling the rush of a motion-driven environment and capturing split-second moments. It was very therapeutic.
My choice of camera and lens was a Nikon D750 with a Nikon 20mm f/1.8G, which served me well both in term of full-frame capabilities and an articulating screen. The simplest way of explaining the how this setup was beneficial to me is that I could get a wide field of view, low noise while shooting indoors, and the movable screen saved me from having to stoop and squat to get the angles I wanted.
The first room I shot was the sitting room, the room with the chair and coffee table surrounded by blue accents. This was the most time consuming because this is the room where I set the standard for how I would the rest of the house. It was here that I determined how I wanted to dial my exposure settings and perspective so that I would use the same standard throughout the house. I spent about 20 minutes here alone. Once I figured out what I wanted the rest of the rooms were pretty simple.
The most challenging room was the living room because of its unique balance of light in relations to other parts of the house. There were no windows in the central portion of the living room which meant that all of the natural light it received was reflected off of the wall from other portions of the house, essentially making it darker than the rest of the house. However, the kitchen that it’s connected to received ample light from a glass sliding door. It took me a while to find a suitable exposure that would accommodate both spaces. I made additional exposure adjustments in Lightroom to provide additional balance.
Overall, this was a great experience that taught me a lot about the comfort of shooting indoors and lighting. It was nice being able to focus solely on the space that I was shooting and have the time to do so. I also learned a lot about photographing using natural lighting. I was able to observe how sunlight flowed throughout the house and interacted with the color of various surfaces. I would happily do a shoot like this again because I found the experience to be very therapeutic and creatively stimulating.
Below is a gallery of the entire home.
I Bought the Same Record Twice: How I learned to avoid this by using Discogs to catalog my records (plus tips on how to catalog your own records)
Last year I was at Mills Record Company in Kansas City when the sales clerk who checked me out gave me the name of a website, Discogs, to help me find a Lianne La Havas record they no longer had in stock. Discogs is an online marketplace, and database, for music that connects you to a global network of retailers (and resellers) who offer nearly all physical music formats from all generations and genres of music. In short, if there’s a piece of music you want Discogs can help you find someone who’s selling it. After just recently digging into their website I learned that it has many other uses for music collectors like keeping a database of your music so you don’t purchase duplicate copies, which is something that happened to me earlier in the year.
Back in April I found myself in Kansas City again and saw a record by Chic that I loved and knew I had to get but I had the feeling that I already purchased it a few months earlier from Vintage Vinyl here in St. Louis. The fact that it would be a 400-mile trip back to the record store if I got home and realized that I didn't have it coupled with the $4.99 sticker price told me to take the chance and buy it just in case I didn't already own it. Low and behold when I got home I realized that I already had it and I ended up gifting the new copy to a friend since I couldn't return it. Going through my Dad's share of the records I noticed that he also faced this same dilemma and ended up with multiple copies of the same record.
A month ago that I finally got around to creating an account on Discogs when I was looking to make a purchase because with most companies you can’t enjoy the full benefits of their websites without creating an account. Previously, I visited the website last year when I first learned about it but didn’t take time to understand it beyond just searching for La Havas, only to find that the record was out of print and was going for $100 plus. You could say that I’ve been procrastinating on getting hip to Discogs for the past year, which is true, but it was a new need that arose this year which brought me back to it long enough to understand its power. After creating an account and then poking around on the site a bit I learned that there is a "Collection" feature which allows you to catalog all of your music so you have a single, consolidated, list of every piece of music you own.
When I found out that not only does Discogs offer this collection feature on their website but they also have a mobile app that allows you to access your collection on your phone inside record stores I felt like all my problems were solved! I am now able to keep a list with me of what records I already own and scroll through that list while shopping to avoid picking up duplicates by mistake again. Conveniently, they also have a “Wantlist” feature that allows you to keep track of what records you want so you know what to look for in a record store.
I’ve spent the past week building my Discogs collection by cataloging my records one by one which has been a time consuming process. I move meticulously through the records because not only does Discogs give you a field to input the records by title but you can also include the condition of the record and its cover, your personal rating of how much you like it, and personalized notes. I opted to fill out all of this information since I plan to pass on the collection to future generations because I knew it would be helpful to document as much information as possible about the records.
Here's the process that I've been using so far:
Step 1: Input the name of the record
The quickest way to do this is by typing in the album’s serial number (for example SD-5658) or using the app to scan the barcode on the back of the record to retrieve the record's details (year and country of release, format, etc) if one is present. In the rare case that neither of these methods works you can search for the album or artist manually.
Step 2: Record the condition
I take the time to pull each record out of its jacket to review it quality then give it a rating from poor to mint. I then do the same for the sleeve condition.
Step 3: Notes
I make it a habit to document which records I purchase in different cities or at concerts I've attended so here I'll list the city of purchase and/or the concert of purchase. I like capturing the unique stories of each record. I haven't gotten as specific as what record store they were purchased at but I'm considering it.
Step 4: Purchased by
I've created two categories in my collection list, one for my father and one for myself, so I can identify who made what purchases.
Step 5: Rating
Lastly, I give my personal rating of the records. Since I haven't listened to all of them yet this will encourage me to do so and also allow me to keep track of which ones I have or haven't heard yet.
Bonus Step 6: Value of collection
If you ever plan on selling your collection Discogs gives you an estimated dollar value of all the records you own. You’re given three estimates, the minimum, median, and max. This is not of any value to me since I don't plan to sell mine. However, it's nice to know how much money has gone into my collection.
If you want to know how I got started collecting records read my first post on record collecting here:
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I was sitting in the house Friday morning when I scrolled through my Facebook feed to find that protests were beginning after the failed conviction of former police officer Jason Stockley for the murder of an unarmed man. I saw many of the people I’m connected to posting about how they were either downtown protesting or asking how to support protesters with supplies. Having taken the day off I was free to go downtown and join them but I didn’t. Instead, I spent the entire day, from sunup to sundown, thinking and writing. This thinking brought me to the fact that I view myself as one who seeks solutions to the core issue as opposed to being a reactionary. Rather than run out and protest I’d rather find a way to prevent the need to protest in the first place.
It was later that evening when I remembered a request from my friend Gabbi to volunteer at 6 a.m. the following morning [Saturday] to help with setting up for Conscious Fest, a festival that builds and promotes positive images blackness. I’m not a morning person at all which is why I didn’t give her a straight answer when she first asked. However, I did plan to volunteer, just later in the day when I would free from having to engage with the early AM.
After seeing all of the hurt and anger that was being expressed regarding the verdict I myself began to feel a sense of frustration, not at the verdict, but at the fact that this has become an all too familiar routine for black people. I was frustrated that I have to continuously discard my happy feelings for the day in exchange for rage because we continually face every form of discrimination that the so called color-blind population swear no longer exists. Every time we see that first post about an injustice we know what time it is. Even if you don’t consider yourself politically active you are dragged into these feelings by the world around you.
This intensifying frustration lead me to a place of wanting to contribute, not towards tearing down the city in protest, but building up something else that will support our people. This brought me back to Gabbi’s request for volunteers. As much as I resisted getting up at 4ish in the morning to make it to the Conscious Fest setup on time I decided that it was something I needed to do, so I made that commitment.
My decision to go beyond my already planned level of volunteering lead me into a 12-hour day that ranged from moving and setting up tables three hours before the event to staying an hour after to help with cleanup. Most photographers who volunteer their services simply do so in the capacity of a photographer which is capturing images. I did more than that because I realized that as important as it was to document such an event it was just as important to contribute towards its existence. This philosophy possibly gave me one of the most unique perspectives of Conscious Fest and I’m grateful for having experienced it in the way that I did.
What did I get from an experience that I both photographed and volunteered for? I got a true sense of what it takes to build a movement, literally from the ground up one table at a time. Many people show up after the movement has already been constructed and let their social media accounts give them credit for their presence but I had the opportunity to be there before these people ever showed up. As a photographer, this translates into experiencing a deeper connection with the people you capture and allows you to no longer see them as just subjects, but as comrades that you’ve bled and sweat with. This is what it meant for me to be Conscious on September 16th, 2017.
Years ago I had an idea for a book to write. In college when I decided to change my major to creative writing all I could dream about was someday writing my own book. I didn't know what exactly I would write about because I had a love for all different types of books, both fiction and non-fiction. At one point I even dreamed about writing a book on relationships because I wanted to give my "expertise" on the subject that my friends have found me to be so helpful with over the years. A few years after changing my major there I was, finally with an idea to work with.
A few months ago I found new inspiration to pick up where I left off after a few years of false starts that gave my book idea shape but brought it nowhere near completion. I wrote notes, outlines, and text that was to become a book but didn't feel that I had the right life experiences to complete it from an honest and enlightened perspective. After looking back over my past writings I had a revelation on how to move forward earlier this year. The subject that I started off with was far too broad to tackle. However, after putting it aside and allowing my life to develop a little more I found a specific idea within the broad subject that truly spoke to what I was feeling. I found my subject.
In addition to finding a specific focus I also had to find the appropriate format through which I could convey my idea. I've known all along that it was going to be non-fiction despite the appeal of fiction. Within the world of non-fiction books there are still many format options. My choice was narrowed slightly but there was still a lot to choose from. After careful research I opted for the memoir format. I chose the memoir because this genre is specifically for writing on a specific life experience, which is where I want to go.
For about a week I debated writing this blog post because I knew if I published it then I would become accountable for having to actually produce a book. It’s also not common practice for for me to reveal projects that I’m working on in their early stages. The compromise I decided to make with myself was to go ahead and make the post because I feel it's an honest representation of what artists experience in the early stages of the creative process. In exchange, I won't say what it's about so I can maintain some degree of creative cover. I will only say that it's a memoir about a life experience that I’m constantly gaining new perspectives on. I also realize that the risk of speaking about a book before it's actually book, there's a chance that I won't finish it or that it could take years. I'm okay with that because it's honestly in what projects go through when we first dream them up, some live and some die. Hopefully, this one will live on to inspire others.
What I really want to focus on is the experience of writing a memoir more than the memoir itself because the experience of working on something can be more valuable than reaching the finish line. The first thing I've learned is that writing about a life experience takes a lot of courage. The process of digging up memories, both pleasant and painful, is extremely unnerving at times. This reminds me of the quote, "anything worth having won't come easy." Anyone can write the chosen highlights of their life from a place of comfort but a good memoir requires you to be truthful about everything, both good and bad. You have to be brave enough to relive the thoughts that you had and carry them with you once again throughout the writing process. A positive outcome is that revisiting difficult times can grant you a new perspective or even the closure that you've been seeking.
As much as it can hurt to be honest about the not so perfect things we've done I believe it's necessary both for us to fully realize the growth that we've experienced and to show others that they're not alone in what they're going through, if we choose to share those things. In my personal experience, I've learned way more life lessons from reading memoirs than reading any type of self-help tips. Telling an experience through story is a lot more motivating than just giving bullet points. When we can feel struggle, especially struggle we can relate to, we can also feel optimism that that struggle has an end and will lead us somewhere wonderful.
A lesson that I learned while volunteering with a local mentoring program, The Village, over the summer is that there are people that don’t know things that our society considers basic knowledge. Some may not know at what age to potty-train children or how to establish credit. You cannot learn these things if you’re never exposed to them by someone who does know them. This lesson served as further inspiration for me to share my experience because there’s a great chance that someone may be able to learn from what I’ve learned and I feel that it’s my moral obligation to share. Accomplishing your dream is great but if you can help others in the process, that’s even greater.
I think one of the most important lessons for me in undertaking this project is that our dreams always start with us. For me this means my dreams of writing books starts with writing about myself. I could have easily opted to be a ghostwriter of someone else's story but I would have been writing their story of growth before I'd written my own and in the process missed all of the lessons I'm destined to receive.
In conclusion, I invite you along on the process of continuous learning and exploration. Whether or not we reach the end and see a beautiful glossy cover with my name on it we can all at least say we've share this experience together and hopefully learned from it.
In the city of Chicago, teachers unions, administrators, parents, and politicians are continuously fighting over how to best educate children, but while doing so students are failing in the broken system and are being prepared to become under-contributing members of society. This dispute often falls into the national spotlight because it’s a common narrative in many of America’s cities. Any breakthrough improvement in education policy would come far too late for adults who have already been failed by the system leaving them with only one option to retrieve a portion their lost education experience, taking the GED. GED programs, themselves, have limitations on how much they can help adults but a true lifeline can be found in arts education. Arts programming has been known to be adaptable and provide “skills that make you stand out,” some of which include entrepreneurial skills according to St. Louis teaching artist Shea Brown.
By our cultural standards, high school is supposed to provide teenagers, who are borderline young adults, with the basic necessities to become functional members of society. The pursuit of higher education is just an addition, or specialized pursuit towards a chosen career path. If someone chooses not to enroll in college after graduation, they should still be able to perform basic tasks such as learning a trade, managing their finances, and participating in civic duties without a college degree. Unfortunately, not completing high school greatly reduces a person’s chances of performing these tasks successfully and the reality is that a sizable portion of the Midwest population does not possess a high school diploma. In Missouri alone, roughly 12% of the population did not possess a diploma in the year 2013.
Education has evolved beyond the K-12 “package of education” that has been sold to America for generations and is now more “consumer responsive” says Kathleen Fink, Ph.D., assistant dean of professional learning and innovation and executive director of the ED Collabitat at the University of Missouri - St. Louis. Fink believes that the GED is not necessarily a sign of failure but can be the “first step in a customized education.” Having to pursue a GED can force an adult to become more proactive in the development of their education and career, which is crucial for everyone in the modern world, and art education is the ideal complement because of it’s emphasis on skills development and adaptability.
Non-profit and community-based organizations across the country have been using extracurricular arts activities to supplement the primary education of children, and in some cases teach them skills that their schools weren't able to. In addition to being an artist, Brown is a founding and acting member of Cherokee Street Reach, an organization that “utilizes a multidimensional approach of visual and performance art, crafting, academics, and physical fitness as a bridge to self-awareness, community building, and economic empowerment.” Cherokee Street Reach works specifically with youths in South St. Louis that are located near Cherokee Street which contains a growing community of arts and cultural attractions.
This same concept can also be used to teach adults who did not successfully complete their high school education. Brown regularly teaches crochet workshops for adults who take interest in the craft for a number of reasons ranging from looking for a hobby to having interest in learning to develop their own craft products. She was amazed to find that one of the participants in her workshop took the skills that he learned and started a business selling crochet products, said Brown. “When you’re creative you’re open to more things,” some of those things could include turning an artistic skill into an entrepreneurial venture.
Exploring the GED
According to the U.S. Department of State website, “The General Education Development (GED) testing program was developed to give U.S. and Canadian citizens who have not graduated from high school the opportunity to demonstrate the level of achievement normally acquired through the completion of a traditional U.S./Canadian high school course of study.” The GED is accepted by many colleges and universities as an alternative to possessing a high-school diploma, the requirement to enroll in any higher education institution. Possessing a GED also serves as an alternative to obtain jobs that require a diploma.
Between the target regions covered by The New Territory Magazine [Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska] there were a total of 2,144,870 adults without a high school credential [diploma], according to statistics collected by the GED Testing Service for 2013. That year, 43,080 of them took the GED test and 32,429 passed. According to the GED Testing Service’s analysis, most people who take the GED dropout of high school after their junior year. For those who don’t take the test immediately after dropping out they, on average, spend eight years out of school before taking the test, making the average age range for GED candidates around 27 years old.
Allen Shaw is one of the many Missourians who did not finish high school. Shaw was an exceptional student in his early years of high school but chose not to complete his education because of the large drug presence in his household which served as both a barrier to maintaining focus on school and eventually a path towards easy money. “I made the choice to hustle”, said Shaw. He received a second opportunity at high school when he moved to California to live with other family members but chose to drop out for good at the age of 16 because he felt that a high school education wasn’t providing him with the resources to develop his own unique path to success. “I decided to better my education at 16,” said Shaw who decided to go straight to college via a GED program, a option that was available to him in the state of California during the 90s.
A number of colleges and universities across the Midwest offer GED testing and test prep programs, but some colleges also offer career building opportunities that allow participants to easily transition into a certificate or degree program once they have earned their GED. Illinois Central College, for example, offers free GED preparation classes via a grant provided by the Illinois Community College Board. The goal of these programs is to increase the opportunities available to those without a diploma and place them on a track to being as competitive as their diploma-holding peers in the economy. Looking at the offerings of these programs gives great optimism that there is a solution for adults who did not finish high school. However, the opportunities are only as great as the people who take advantage of them.
Overcoming GED challenges
One of the largest obstacles for the GED being a gateway to new opportunities is getting people to take it. Out of the 2,144,870 adults that didn’t have a high school diploma in 2013, only 43,080 made an attempt to get a GED, just 2% of those who had the opportunity. For children, education is mandatory whereas for adults, education is voluntary and they must choose to pursue it. This means 98% of those without a diploma chose not to obtain a GED. Despite enrolling in a GED program at his college, Shaw did not complete it because he chose to pursue a deeper involvement in drug activity because he learned that the drug trade was used as a means towards “funding ventures” in the music industry. Furthermore, standardized tests, which typically have little appeal, are dreaded by even the most academically successful people meaning that they can be even less desirable to someone who struggled with academics.
The second big obstacle is ensuring that people who pass the test actually master the material that is covered rather than reciting just enough to get by. “We need creative thinkers that don’t just regurgitate facts on standardized tests,” said Erica Popp, assistant professor of art and photography program coordinator at St. Louis Community College - Florissant Valley. Popp emphasized the benefit of her own art background being present in her teaching style noting that “when you’re an artist you’re adaptable and it helps me be more responsive to the students’ needs.” This same responsiveness is needed by students to succeed in their career path of choice but may not be emphasized in GED programs.
These two challenges make it difficult to ensure that this demographic of undereducated adults can get back on track and make up the things they missed out on in high school. While there are a plethora of options you can’t force an adult to take advantage of any of them and you can’t guarantee that they will get the full benefit of them. The question to be answered is, how do you educate an adult who missed out on a quality high school education but is too old to repeat high school? The answer may be in community-focused artists. Working in partnership with educators and community developers, artists have a history of creating transformative environments that exceed the possibilities of GED programs and traditional career building opportunities. As members of their community, artists are often aware of the true needs of those who live within the areas where they work such as creative outlets for citizens to express themselves and their feelings about community issues and training to help them develop skills that can help them develop a career focus or entrepreneurial skills. In addition, they are accustomed to thinking outside of conventional tactics and formulating new approaches to problems while having limited resources.
Using art themes can make learning the material more attractive for those who may not have a strong interest in education subjects such as english or history, and also more interactive which will help in the mastery of critical information that needs to be learned. Shaw believes that “writing is a good thing because you can visualize something and then put it into words” as he spoke of the possibility of using poetry in education. Reading is also a critical skill that could be taught through the arts because reading aids in the visualization portion of writing that Shaw described, being able to read will help one to be able to visualize a wider range of things. Another St. Louis-based organization, UrbArts, provides an example of the arts being used to education with their VerbQuake Youth Poetry Slam program which uses performance poetry to help improve writing and public speaking in teenagers. According to their website, “it is critical of literacy, it is reading everyday life as text, it is treating revision as sharpening blades,” the organization speaks of VerbQuake.
Ideas for Art-Ed
Both Street Reach and UrbArts have created programs that enable youth that can easily serve as templates for adult-focused programs that could use the arts to teach valuable skills. One idea is to use poetry writing to teach civics. Participants could be challenged to write a poem from the perspective of a television character from their favorite show and explore civics from their point of view. In addition to using a popular television show they're familiar with to gain their interest, they would also be encouraged to consider the perspectives of others which is an important soft skills for people to possess. A second idea is to use painting to teach about budgeting and the economics of managing a business. This would consist of learning to calculate the cost of labor and materials that go into the creation of an artwork to determine the appropriate retail value. Each participant could be given a budget, $50.00 for example, and told to purchase the supplies they need to create a painting which they will eventually sell, the goal being to earn more than what is spent. A final idea is to use theatre to teach participants how to successfully articulate information about themselves, confidently, during an interview. As with performing a role in a play, participants would learn the art of rehearing lines [information about themselves] in preparation for a performance [interview]. One of the best features of art is its ability to meet people where they are when it comes to their learning level and it can be modified to fit evolving needs.
While you can’t completely replace a high school diploma or GED with arts education it can make for an ideal supplement in workforce training. Many jobs still require that piece of paper as the bare minimum education requirement so it will always be advantageous to have a diploma or GED. However, for those with more entrepreneurial intentions the arts can create a path towards independence the way it did for Brown who “got tired of being overqualified [for jobs] and wanted to be self-sufficient.” This could eventually be the route that Shaw takes, as well as others facing similar circumstances, that will get him where he wants to be in life, career-wise as he maintains an interest in the intersection of technology and entertainment. Arts education can be used to reach out to those who haven’t made the decision to pursue a GED, or to further advance the skills of those who have done so which will enable them to be more prosperous. The Midwest could benefit tremendously from using unconventional education methods to help people in unconventional situations.
Published in The New Territory (Issue 4)
As a child I remember my father having a huge crate of records that sat beneath the windowsill in one of the rooms of our house. He also had what is now considered vintage stereo equipment that he purchased sometime during his young adult years in the 80s. Despite having what had to be a few hundred records I never saw him play any, most likely because in my childhood cassette tapes were the latest music rage and my dad spent most of his time dubbing his own mixtapes to play in the car. With cassettes, and eventually CDs, being how my dad got his music fix his records were mainly a decoration in a music lover's lair, and sadly a fixture for an infant to climb on top of to look out of the window they sat underneath.
In my teenage years my dad bought a new record player when he learned that he could use the computer to transfer his old vinyl albums to CDs. With this new discovery he began digging through his record crate and rediscovering his old favorites. I witnessed and heard this whole process. Having been born to older parents I grew up on pre-90's music and grew to like artists like The S.O.S Band and Earth Wind and Fire. To this day, I still get more excited by old funk/soul music than most new music. I instantly became curious about the new record player when I saw all of the albums that my dad left lying around the basement and began to play them for my own listening pleasure. The experience of physically flipping the albums to play the other side was highly engaging to me.
By my early 20s I found myself in Vintage Vinyl and decided to buy my first two records of my own, Nas' "The Lost Tapes" and The Brother's Johnson "Look Out for #1." Nas was, and still is, my favorite musical writer/poet of all time and I've always loved the funky soul groove of The Brother's Johnson. I played those records faithfully almost every night. By this time the iPod and MP3s were in. My dad didn't use his record play as much but when he saw the records I bought it took him down memory lane. Although his passion had been reignited mine still had not yet fully emerged. The convenience of my iPod made my record playing short lived.
My father passed away in early 2016. Like anyone who loses a parent it's an entire process to deal with it. Part of my process was getting deeper into music which made sense for me having been in the prime of growing as a musician and artist. Despite being involved in other art forms music gave me the most peace.
While having discussions about my dad with my aunt the subject of his love for music would always come up. This inspired me to revisit his record collection and play a few of his records that had been left sitting out over the years. The first thing I noticed when playing them was the tremendous difference in sound quality compared to MP3s. Vinyl albums sound so much fuller and truthful to the original recording which is something I grew to appreciate as a musician. I also found this to be true when I purchased my first record in nearly five years, Esperanza Spalding's "Emily's D+Evolution." I compared the sound of Vinyl to that of the digital download that came with it and the record made me feel so much more present in the music than the MP3 version. I was so eager to express this marvel to all of my music friends.
When discussing my dad's record collection with one of my friends (shout out to E. Nicole) she suggested that I have a record listening party in honor of my father. Influenced by her suggestion, I decided to have a record listening party for my birthday that year and invite friends to help me explore my dad's collection since I didn't know what albums were there other than the few I played over the years. This was a life changing experience. Through the ears of my friends I was able to learn how music savvy my dad was and how many gems he had in his possession. Some of the records that got player were Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall," Prince's self-titled album [Prince], and Whitney Houston "I'm your Baby Tonight."
After that night I was committed to not only preserving my dad's legacy of records but also continuing to add to it for the next generation of my family to enjoy in the future. Continuing to grow the record collection will create a music catalog that's representative of albums from each generation and will serve as a sonic time capsule. I also find value in the physical format because it's something tangible that can be given unlike digital files. That's what record collecting means to me.