In late September, the fully furnished facility opened its doors with approximately $100,000 worth of state-of-the-art, professional equipment from computers and microphones to sound and mixing boards. The studio also incorporates space for lectures and a green screen room for videos and podcasts. But the former director for Capitol Records wants to teach more than the glamorous side of the business.
“I’ve been in the record industry almost 40 years and worked across genres, and I’ve never had a mic in my hand,” he said. “Artists are very talented, but many often lack social and life skills. When I started this organization, I wanted to incorporate soft skills into everything we do, from how to deal with people to conflict resolution.”
Students learn about the industry before setting foot in the studio. The curriculum focuses on details around job opportunities, salaries and required education.
“I’ve had kids come in who say they want to be producers, then they come in here and want to be engineers,” said Ross.
Ray Singer, the program director for the nonprofit 100 Black Men of Atlanta who has been part of the B.E.S.T. team since 2007, said Ross brings essential real-world knowledge to the students.
“He brings in great guests who make students aware of different career opportunities in the music industry, especially in the Atlanta area,” said Singer. “He’s exposing them to things they wouldn’t otherwise get to be around.”
The 15 students in the program spend about three hours during school time in the studio and often work on projects after the final bell and on Saturdays. Ross said it’s usually difficult to get them out of the studio and to their next class.
“I have to tell them to leave,” he said. “It’s so great to hear how appreciative and enthusiastic they are. They stop me in the hallway and say they can’t fathom that we really have a studio in our school. It’s life changing.”
For Ross, a native Atlantan who attended the city’s public schools, it’s a way to inspire the next generation.
“B.E.S.T. has always been special to me,” he said. “We want to give these young Black men the best opportunities and expose them to as many things as we can to give them a chance in life. Whether they go into the record industry, I don’t care. It’s really about making sure they have a solid foundation for business and life.”
Information about B.E.S.T. Academy is online at atlantapublicschools.us/besths.
SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at email@example.com or 770-744-3042.