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    On a recent Thursday night, six groups of middle and high school students are performing for a crowd of about 100 in the Mayor’s Gallery at Louisville Metro Hall. Some sing, some rap, others play drums or keyboard. The group Forever Young sings about heartbreak in their song “Hearts.”  The Kool Kidz song “Electrified” features the lyrics, “We’re goin’ to dance the night away/We don’t care what they say, ’cause we love to party.” Dave Christopher nods his head and mouths along to the lyrics as 15-year-old Metez Trice raps “Count Down.” 

    Christopher, who is 51 and owns a web-design business, is responsible for bringing all these kids together. His organization, AMPED (Academy of Music Production Education and Development) is only about seven months old. Christopher’s Level Seven Recording Studio in Old Louisville now hosts 20 to 30 kids once a week. The idea is that, through writing, producing and performing music with the guidance of mentors, kids can learn about careers in the music business. “Way too often kids are written off as ‘just kids,’ and they aren’t taken seriously in something such as music,” says Jecorey Arthur, AMPED’s program director.

    “I opened up at the time that all that stuff was going on with the kids downtown, all the crimes and craziness and stuff. I was like, ‘We need a place for them to be, so how do we connect to them?’” Christopher says. “I don’t think there’s anybody who doesn’t connect to music.” 

    Christopher says his goal is to make the studio kind of like a community center, where kids can come after school and practice music or get help with homework five days a week. The event in the Mayor’s Gallery is part performance, part college fair. Representatives from regional universities get up and speak between bands. The last song of the night is “Street Smart.” Members of the group Grind 5 rap verses, then all the kids join in, repeating this lyric: “Book smart, street smart — at the same time.” It’s sort of what AMPED is all about.

    Images courtesy of Chris Witzke

    This article appears in the December issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here.

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