ZUMIX Site Visit

Check out this video of our first site visit! The sound track of the video is from live recording of a ZUMIX youth group that sang after the run.

On Sunday, our team met at Piers Park in East Boston to check out the Move to the Beat 5K run, which ZUMIX has organized for the last four years to raise funds for its music and creative technology programming. Lucia, our ZUMIX point-person, estimated that somewhere between 300-400 people took part in the race and/or musical festivities that young people from ZUMIX performed for the crowd. The weather was great, the surroundings beautiful, and the atmosphere lively. People were laughing, snapping photos of each other in the costumes they wore for the race, enjoying the music, and showing love for ZUMIX and their neighbors and friends.

Lucia and Rayza, a 9th-grade ZUMIX Radio DJ, walked us up the street just a few blocks to the beautifully converted firehouse that ZUMIX calls home. There we were given a tour of the incredible facility within. ZUMIX has spaces for kids to learn and practice all kinds of musical instruments, from piano to drumline to horns to beats. They have a state-of-the-art production studio where program participants can record their music and learn to work the tech. The radio station is tucked away down in the basement, where there’s a board, a monitor, and a collection of mics for live interviews. On the walls of the classrooms and corridors, there are huge bright paintings of artists like Bob Dylan and Miles Davis. There are also group agreements from the music and production classes, written out in a young student’s handwriting. The space effuses their mission to build strong people and communities through art and creative expression.

After the tour, we sat down to discuss ideas, objectives, and potential projects for our co-design team. We’ll be focusing on the radio arm of ZUMIX’s operations; Lucia, the radio coordinator, has the following objectives:

  • Get more young people involved in ZUMIX Radio

  • Let folks in the East Boston community know about all of the local programming, produced by and for their neighbors, that ZUMIX Radio streams online daily

  • Integrate ZUMIX Radio with the other activities and programming that happens at the larger ZUMIX organization (eg. students taking technical production courses could record students

These will serve as overarching, directional goals. Some ideas we came up with to help us achieve these objectives include:

  • Portable old-fashioned radio

  • Portable sound booth

The old-fashioned radio could serve as a physical reminder of ZUMIX Radio on the second floor (where a lot of the music and tech classes happen, the administrative folks have their desks, and there’s a common hangout and kitchen space). It would be hooked up to a laptop that streams ZUMIX Radio, but the volume and other features are controlled by old-timey knobs and dials. It should be interactive so that kids are attracted to it; the whole point is to get them interested in and excited about radio.

The Portable Sound Booth could be used to collect and share stories from East Boston with East Boston and beyond. Lucia explained that the neighborhood is changing: gentrification is setting in, the outcome of the casino debate will have serious ramifications, and the large immigrant population has unique concerns that need to be addressed. The sound booth might be a way for residents to share their stories about the past and their hopes for the future. We should also remember to make it FUN! Kids, families, whomever…people can be silly, creative…whatever they like! We discussed building on an existing relationship that ZUMIX Radio has with an East Boston High media class as a way to reach out to young people and bring the booth to them. There are also a number of community organizations, churches, and public squares and parks where we could bring the booth to people. As you can imagine, we want to make sure the booth is as portable, appealing, and useful as possible. It should be light, have both private and public spaces, be able to both record and play audio, and should be visually captivating.

Potentially, the old-fashioned radio and the story booth could be combined. We think we’ll be able to reach out the Media Lab and other MIT sources to find some of the tools we’ll need for both of these projects. But in order to move forward with these ideas in the immediate future, our next steps include:

  • Asking Sasha about our budget!

  • Doing research on what others have done around story booths (portability, hardware, software, etc)

If you have questions, suggestions, or ideas, please leave a comment!

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