In a matter of days after receiving a call from Cricket Wireless about collaborating with some of their celebrities partners, seven Atlanta Music Project students were in Washington D.C. performing with Atlanta-born hip-hop legend, T.I., at his NPR Tiny Desk concert.
The whole experience was quick and surreal. As soon as AMP was made aware of the itinerary for production we knew we had to get to work, and fast!
Three of T.I.’s most famous records were selected by his music director My Guy Mars, to be played for the concert. Each song had to be arranged for AMP’s instrumentation, and so well-known hip-hop orchestra arranger Nicole “Strings Chick” Neely was brought in for this purpose.
Several of our most advanced young musicians were already “On Tour” in Los Angeles having won national auditions to participate in the National Take-A-Stand festival with the LA Philharmonic. It created the perfect opportunity for the next group of rising AMP stars to put the results of their commitment and dedication on display.
Rehearsals for the performance were held at Crossover Entertainment Group rehearsal studios. When you walk in the building there are autographed pictures of all the major label recording artists who’d been there before.
Stars like Whitney Houston, Usher, TLC, Justin Bieber. It was quite intimidating but obviously the right place for the occasion. Rehearsals started right away, learning the parts for four straight hours. Tuesday, same thing, only this time let’s make it five hours with no break. On the van ride home violist Nyasjah Brooks said “this is brutal!” So we stopped for Gatorade and decided to work some more. Later that same Tuesday, the students rehearsed for three more hours at the historic Gilbert House until 11:30 at night. #heartrequired
Wednesday was the media rehearsal day where T.I. was invited to speak to the media and listen in on the rehearsals with AMP and My Guy Mars.
T.I. arrived relaxed, his daughter Heiress, clinging to his neck and shoulder. The Cricket Wireless team was also in attendance, led by Dawn Benton. The media frenzy was electric. The flashing cameras and assertiveness of reporters was quite an experience. Our young musicians had seen it before on television but now they were the subject.
T.I. finally cleared the room of reporters and was able to talk with us personally. He assured us that everything would be smooth and easy, and that we should be confident.
Thursday was showtime! After another morning rehearsal at and a quick soundcheck the performance took place with T.I. at the famous Tiny Desk of NPR radio host Bob Boilen. AMP cellist Brent Cameron said “This is the first time I’ve been able to do something this big. It’s a great opportunity. I was just thinking about all the notes Mr. Dantes taught me and I knew I couldn’t mess this up.”
NPR will release the recording of this session in the next few weeks and you’ll be able to find at npr.org/music.
The media covered this story extensively. Here are just some of the major articles that came out this week about this AMP – T.I. – Cricket Wireless collaboration: