Our Next Great Big Idea: The AMP Summer Series

Aisha Bowden is the Co-founder and Director of AMPlify, the choral program of the Atlanta Music Project.

As soon as I completed the Sistema Fellows Program at New England Conservatory, I returned to Atlanta to work alongside Dantes Rameau in building AMP into a world-class arts organization. We hit the ground running and have been going full speed ahead ever since. But, as with all journeys, there are moments that give us pause – milestones in the organization’s growth, teary eyes at final concerts, impassioned conversations on social change with other arts leaders – these bring everything into clear focus, allowing us to see our surroundings with new eyes. It’s these moments that remind us of who we are, why we do the work we do, and what needs to be done to further our impact. And in those moments, we find our next great big idea – or what you might call the Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

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The AMPlify Choirs pose with Lil John Roberts, world renowned drummer.

We started the big ideas with the AMP Orchestra, and then brought in AMPlify and the AMP Academy private lesson program. We’re pleased with the progress of AMP’s three programs and will continue to build them in coming years. However, it’s clear that it’s time to launch a new program within the organization. What’ s ironic is that at first glance, our newest dream may not appear to be too big, hairy or audacious. Its innovation is really in its simplicity. Our next goal is to launch the AMP Summer Series – a music festival and school. Sounds simple enough, and on some level, it is.

The AMP Summer Series is about something that all musicians are familiar with – the summer music institutes. Generally, if a young music student wants to become a serious young musician and boost their practice and performance skills, they attend a summer program. There, they are immersed in a musical utopia – it’s generally held far away from the city life, in an idyllic setting that inspires creativity. There, other young musicians, who are equally passionate about music, surround you. You’re studying with a teacher that before then you had only admired from afar. On top of that, there are evening performances featuring said teacher(s) – all at your fingertips. For many it’s a dream come true – but the real impact is felt when that student returns to their home. They approach choir rehearsal with a new level of seriousness, they become section leaders in their band, their home practice sessions improve exponentially – they just ”get it”. This is the experience we want to give our young artists.

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Xavier, 10th grade, smiles after soloing at the AMPlify Black History Month Concert.

I spent some time this school year researching summer programs for my advanced middle school students…they are beginning private instruction and I knew they would need a meaningful summer experience to keep them on target musically. I was pleased with what I found- great programs, great results, but there were issues, big issues. Most required significant financial investment from the family in order for the child to attend. I knew that at best, we might be able to send 1 or 2 students away, but it wouldn’t help most of our kids or the overall program. It’s at that point that we thought to ourselves, why don’t we create a program that does just that, but within Atlanta? Thus the AMP Summer Music Series was born.

I won’t go into great detail on the components of AMP Summer Series – I’d rather you watch it in the video below. But I will say that I want the very best for our young artists, and I hope our work thus far reflects that. Their talent inspires me to be a better leader each day. We are simply trying to invest in them in an unprecedented way to give them what they deserve.

It would be my honor if you would join me in making this program a reality. Please click the link below to give a financial contribution to our current campaign. Each donation is matched dollar for dollar by MailChimp, a steadfast partner of ours.

After you make your donation, share the link with others who share your passion for youth development. Make it a goal to get three friends on board to make donations. Make it a goal to give three donations! AMP will be a better organization because of you.

Thanks for your time. See you at the first AMP Summer Series Concert!


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