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Inspiring Conversations with Clint Velazquez of Base Academy of Music

Today we’d like to introduce you to Clint Velazquez.

Hi Clint, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
After teaching music to children for over ten years, I noticed a troubling disparity in my own community: kids in urban Kansas City had little to no access to music education. The schools had limited music programs, music stores did not exist and lesson programs for beginning students were unavailable. The urban core was essentially a music desert.

I had grown up in a musical household, my father being choir teacher and my mom’s mom being a band director. Making music was a part of life, the only part of school I enjoyed, and what I choose to pursue as a career. When I started teaching, I really fell in love with helping young people find that spark and joy in making music that I had know all my life. I also witnessed the depth of impact learning music has on students, far beyond just musical skill. Music can instill confidence, creativity, and perseverance in kids. I wanted kids in the urban core to have the same opportunity to play music as their suburban counterparts.

The only programs available in the urban core at that time required students to already have some amount of music skill, but it I wanted to introduce youth to music for the very first time. That is how Base Academy of Music was born: a program that would make foundational music education accessible and affordable for urban youth.

For nine years, Base Academy of Music (BAM as we call it) has been teaching one-on-one music lessons to kids in Kansas City. Our talented staff of teachers teacher over a 100 lessons a week to students who come from over 30 different schools across them metro. We believe music education is a reason and a means to succeed. It’s a simple idea, really: when you teach children to play an instrument, you help them see their God-given potential to learn, create, and achieve.

Most of all, we believe every child from every walk of life has worth and value. That those children regularly need to hear from a caring adult, “I see you, I hear you, you matter, I believe you can do great things.” Music is the language of the soul, of our emotions. By teaching music one-on-one, week by week, we can communicate to the children we serve their value and worth in a language that transcends culture or experience.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
When BAM started, we had a dream of teaching music and a few ideas but not a lot of clarity on how to best go about that. We originally started teaching small group classes after school but when one mother came to us about drum lessons for her son and mentioned, “I don’t want to have to drive past I-435 for music lessons,” we saw a huge need and started our lesson program.

In 2016 our lesson program had 25 students, and by 2019 it had grown to 150 students taking lessons each week! Students pay for lessons on a sliding scale based on family income, and with the majority of our population being lower-income, we depend heavily on individual giving to operate. That much growth in that short a time had us on the edge financially several times.

And then in 2020, COVID hit, and like the rest of the world, we had to pivot to virtual lessons overnight. A third of our students stopped taking lessons then. This summer, as we’ve transitioned back to in-person, we have had to find a new location for our lessons.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Base Academy of Music?
BAM’s private lessons combine the benefits of a mentor relationship with music education to create an environment where students feel safe to grow and develop the social and emotional skills needed to succeed in school and life. What sets us apart from other music schools are our values; Fun, Family, and the Pursuit of Beauty. Music is FUN and learning music should be fun too!

Family should be people who care for you, believe in you, hold you accountable to do your best, and support you in your journey. The BAM Fam is our teachers, parents, and supporters all working together to see our students succeed. Beauty is something that takes time to learn to appreciate, to create, and replicate. We want our students to understand that the pursuit lasts a lifetime and that the goal isn’t perfection but the pursuit itself and the joy it brings to them and others.

We do that through a half-hour music lesson once a week, offered at an affordable rate so any kid can experience the joy of making music.

So maybe we end on discussing what matters most to you and why?
I believe that there is beauty and joy to be found in our work and the people around us. Whether it is doing taxes, baking bread, installing pipes, or working in medicine, there is beauty and joy to be found. And each person we interact with has a story and dreams and hurts that matter to them. What would the world be like if each person approached their work as a way to bring joy and beauty into the world? And what would it be like if we practiced listening to the stories of those around us and learned to see the beauty they see?

Music is a universal language that carries that dream, and for me, when I see a kid’s eyes light up the first time they play a beautiful note, I get a glimpse of what that world could be like.

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