Sony, Simmons to sponsor music production program

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When Randy Fisher worked out of a Liberty Avenue recording studio in Jamaica, he got tired of seeing teenagers and young people using the negative images in hip-hop as an excuse to deal drugs or live out the personas created by their favorite rappers.

Fisher, now the executive director of the Queens Village-based Hip-Hop Summit Youth Council, saw young men turn into "gangstas" and saw young women willing to dance wearing next to nothing for a shot at becoming models, he said.

Fisher started a program to bring the young people into the studio and teach them about the production aspects of the recording industry, and now with the cooperation of Sony Music and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons the project is expanding to include up to 120 students a year, Fisher said.

"We saw so many kids going around selling drugs and listening to rap songs," Fisher said. "They're not going to use hip-hop as an excuse to deal drugs. There are other ways to get paid out here."

The program, scheduled to start this fall, will be open to students from Districts 28 and 29 in southeast Queens, Fisher said. Teens will be recruited from IS 192 in St. Albans, IS 8 in Jamaica, August Martin High School in Jamaica and Campus Magnet High School in Cambria Heights, he said.

The inclusion of local students is a key part in the project, said Ben Chavis, president of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, a social change organization founded by Simmons and independent of Fisher's group.

"We would like to lift up the success of this project in the hopes of making it a model for youth empowerment through music," Chavis said. "The involvement of August Martin High School is an important component in light of the scarcity of arts and music programs available in New York City public schools."

The students will participate in four-month sessions to get hands-on lessons in all aspects of audio and video production, including equipment use, recording techniques, promotion, and legal and business issues, Fisher said. Through a partnership with Sony Music, the teens will get to visit the company's offices, studios and manufacturing plant to see the industry first hand, he said.

"I want to show them that you don't have to be in front of the camera," he said. "You don't have to rap, you don't have to shake your booty to be in video. You can be a producer. We need to take that negative energy and put it into something positive."

The program is also working with the Jam Master Jay Scholarship Fund, named in honor of slain disc jockey Jason Mizell. A select group of students will get a chance to help produce the documentary detailing the life of Mizell, a member of the pioneering rap group Run-DMC. Mizell, a Hollis native, was shot at his Jamaica studio in October.

Students will also get help with planning and applying for colleges, resume writing and interviewing, Fisher said.

"Through this program we will fulfill one of our objectives, which is to use the positive influence of hip-hop for the social, political and economic empowerment of our youth," said Charles Fisher, founder of the Hip-Hop Summit Youth Council. "It is my hope that we can now garner the support of other celebrities and executives to expand this program nationwide."

Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam Records and a Jamaica native, is supporting the project through a donation from his Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation.

"Charles Fisher and our Hip-Hop Summit Youth Council in Queens have embarked upon a unique and important program to expand career development opportunities for our youth," he said.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:24 pm, October 10, 2011
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