The Awesome Way This Teacher Wants to Help At-Risk Kids Through Music

Using a check he received from hitRECord, which airs a show on our sister network, Pivot, Adam McGrath will start a nonprofit for young people.

Kristina Bravo is a Los Angeles–based writer. She is an Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Adam McGrath grew up playing music. Under the moniker humunkulus, he joined hitRECord, a collaborative community of artists who create artwork showcased on HITRECORD ON TV. McGrath wound up onstage with show creator Joseph Gordon-Levitt to perform a song during one episode, and he recently received his cut of the profit (contributors get 50 percent of the money a project makes). As McGrath says in the video above, he has big plans for it.

The Berkeley, Calif.–based middle school and high school teacher will use the check he received to start Beat Track Records, a nonprofit for at-risk youths in Oakland. It will be a safe space, he says, for kids to “process and express [their] experience of the world through art.” Along with homework assistance and leadership training, McGrath wants to provide mental health support through counselors and, of course, music.

“We’ll put them in the driver’s seat, so they’re in control. Just getting everything out through music,” McGrath says. A fellow organizer works in marriage and family therapy, and the group is looking at ways to help traumatized youths by integrating creativity in their thought processes. “Whatever they’re experiencing, they can create a narrative around it. Instead of emotions owning them, they own their emotions.”

McGrath has become familiar with working with kids at the Bay Area school where he teaches music, math, and science. “When a kid is going through something difficult, whether we’re in a math or science class, we’ll come into the music studio and just create,” he says. “By the end of one session, one of my students said, ‘That’s how I’m feeling.’ It’s such a beautiful process. I love when that happens.”

He and his team will file the paperwork to get Beat Track Records started as a nonprofit in the summer. After working out a game plan, they’ll open up shop next year. Beat Track may start out serving just one community, but at a time when young people could clearly use the extra support, efforts like McGrath’s could lead to a bigger change.

This content was produced in partnership with Participant Media, the parent company of Pivot and TakePart. 

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