Loose Films’ members have a variety of interests, and through the connections each of us make, we are introduced to so many different entities doing great work. I stumbled upon The Dick & Jane Project a few months ago, and I reached out to the Executive Director, Ben Shinabery.
The Dick & Jane Project partners middle school students with professional musicians to create radio ready songs. The students write the lyrics, the musicians compose and record the music, and together they collaborate on the production of a professionally recorded song. Bringing schools, families, and communities together, they give young people the confidence to know that their words can impact people beyond the classroom walls in a very real way.
Loose Films is very invested in spreading art and culture to as many groups as possible, which is what The Dick & Jane Project is doing for students all over Columbus. Through music and lyrics, these students can express themselves in untapped ways.
According to Shinabery, “At 12 or 13 years old, these kids are going through a lot of changes, and they don’t really understand those changes. And, typically, what happens is they act in ways we don’t understand, and as adults we say “Oh, they’re middle school students, I don’t get it.” But at The Dick & Jane Project we tell ourselves that they have amazing thoughts and amazing ideas, and it’s our job to get those concepts and lyrics out of their heads and into the songs.”
The Dick & Jane Project, which has created 77 songs since its inception, is currently working on a documentary in progress, and I was able to catch a glimpse. It was truly heartwarming to see the songwriting process from the start to finish. The kids truly lit up when asked what they wanted to write about, as if they’d never been asked before. They were able to immerse themselves in the artistry of writing lyrics that reflected their daily lives. It was ten times more heartwarming to see the kids hear their song in completion, that their hard work grew into a piece that thousands will hear over the radio (which you can hear on WCBE 90.5fm Fridays @ 11:56am or Tuesdays @ 8:01pm!)
Shinabery, who also works at ACPA (The Arts & College Preparatory Academy) believes that a mix of art and other academic courses fosters a more well-rounded student, it’s what keeps him going. “I would be just as interested if a student’s english grade went up, or writing grade, or something measurable - it’s giving kids the interest to want to learn.”
“My vision is: first period, Algebra, second period, English, third period, Dick & Jane. When schools are doing budgets, they never question to include math - that’s what you do, it’s important. I want to have everyone understand the undeniable importance of Dick & Jane, to better understand the effects it has on kids...to think of it as a no-brainer, like math,” Shinabery adds. And he knows it can’t happen overnight - an implementation process will take a while, which is something he’s okay with: “Good plans take a long time to develop, both in your head and in the real world.”
In terms of community outreach, Dick & Jane Week is coming up during the first week of October! During that week various music shows across Columbus will donate a portion of ticket sales to Dick & Jane. You can find more information on that below, and you can also purchase all 77 of the songs on iTunes!