July 15, 2006
By MELISSA PIONZIO, Courant Staff Writer
There was a lot of giggling going on during a recent session of Hartford Public Library's "Bringin' the Beat," where local teenagers had the chance to record their own lyrics with the help of a professional musician.
"I love you girrrrl, you touch my hearrrrt," 16-year-old Ilvin Sanchez warbled into a microphone, sending the rest of the teens present into gales of laughter.
But the goofiness stopped once 18-year-old Melanie Rivera's smooth voice filled the room as she sang about lost love.
"I sing about how I feel," said Rivera, a Hartford teenager who writes all her own songs. "About being a first-time mom and about love, hate, cheating...a lot of stuff teen kids know about."
The session, held at the Central Library at 500 Main St., is one of three being offered this month to give youths from the ages of 12 to 18 a chance to express themselves through music. Those brave enough to do a recording will be mailed copies of their songs on CDs. Additional sessions will be held July 20 at the library's Goodwin Branch and July 27 at the Albany Branch, both starting at 6 p.m.
"At this age, it's hard because recording usually costs a lot of money," said Enfield resident Christopher Regan, a guitarist with a local band called Fear Nuttin'. Regan provided his own pre-recorded music as a background for the lyrics.
"Usually when you record, you do it with headphones, but we are doing it with speakers so everyone can hear. ... It's kind of like karaoke except they use their own words."
But even with Regan's suggestions and gentle encouragement, it turned out that the speaker idea didn't go over too well with the girls in the group, who refused to sing as long as the boys were present.
"They make fun of people," 15-year-old Melinda Perez said. "I'm not shy, but we know them and they make fun a lot."
Once the girls had their chance - boys not present - library Teen Services Coordinator Casey Rondini called the boys back in. The only one with enough courage to sing was Terrell Dickson.
With his back to his friends, the 13-year-old sang a rap song he'd written, backed up by a heavy, repetitive beat provided by Regan. Terrell's voice, soft and unsteady at first, grew stronger as Regan talked him through the session, telling him to stand still and sing directly into the mike.
"It felt real good," Terrell said once he had finished. "I have a little group and we rhyme sometimes. We rhyme about a girl that we like, or talk about when we get older."
In addition to the recording sessions, the library is offering a mural project for teens this summer with the help of the Hartford Arts Council, and a production of "Romeo and Juliet" done with rap music and break dancing through The Hartford Stage. The library also has six summer interns from Weaver High School and provides employment to 23 Hartford teens.
"It gives them something to do, a place to be," said Rondini. "It's better than just hanging out and it gives them money in their pockets so they can enjoy their summer and just be kids."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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