Ending Up Helping :: January 4th :: The Dick & Jane Project

A typical day in my high school English class:

“Alright guys, here’s what I need from you. Please write…”

{insert guttural groan of disgust}

“…would you just hear me out before you start groaning at me?? Please write 2 paragraphs about {insert awesome free writing prompt here}.

“Miss A…how many sentences is that?”

“5-8 sentences per paragraph, so 10-16 sentences total.”

“Ohmigod Miss A, that’s just doin’ too much!”

 …and these are 11th and 12th graders complaining about writing TWO paragraph. TWO! Paragraphs! Not two pages. Ugh. Because of student responses like this, I am consistently looking for ways to get students excited about writing.

Enter in…

 The Dick & Jane Project

It’s a simple and badass idea. Teenagers write lyrics and local, professional musicians write the music. Created by Ben Shinabery, Cory Roth and Andy Gallagher, the organization aims to show middle school kids that they have a voice and what they say matters.

 “The Dick & Jane Project provides students with the support they deserve and the confidence they need. We view their writing as legitimate works of art, regarding their lyrics with the same esteem that they hold for their favorite recording artists.”

Whether the individual student is a struggling or advanced writer, there is a place for them in the program. Emerging writers are able to focus on expressing themselves without the obstacles of proper grammar, punctuation or spelling (although these things are important elsewhere 😉 ). Proficient and advanced writers can challenge themselves to express themselves in a way beyond simple, structured sentences and paragraphs.

“In either case, transforming their words into professional recordings allows the students to hear their writing through a medium that was previously unattainable: the radio. When they hear their songs and see the reaction from the community, they realize their true potential and are inspired to want to write more.”

The members of The Dick & Jane Project start by helping students to understand that no matter their writing level, they can be a successful songwriter. After a prewriting sessions, students and musicians work together to brainstorm ideas, the musicians provide feedback on the kids’ lyrics and the students give the musicians ideas towards what the song should sound like.

 “At the end of the workshop, the songs are professionally recorded and mastered before they are made available to the public via: radio airtime on WCBE 90.5 (with more stations coming soon), a CD, and digital downloads for iTunes via Bandcamp. Additionally, the participating bands play a live performance of the songs for the students and community.”

After researching The Dick & Jane Project, I have been truly inspired. This is an amazing project  with the ultimate end goal of helping kids realize their potential as writers. Many students don’t know that what they have to say matters. Whether it’s because they’re not heard at home or not excelling is school and thus looked over (this is a whole other troubling issue), becoming a professionally recorded songwriter can be an imperative outlet for any student.

I promised to focus on the organization in my post, and I think I’ve done that…but I have to mention the involvement of my kinda sorta cousin Andy Dodson (our parents were legit BFFs growing up – basically siblings. And if they WERE siblings, we’d be cousins). Andy is a founding member and I’m on the governance committee of The Dick & Jane Project. Whether it is this group, playing in local band, owning a Columbus recording studio, working behind the scenes at Independents’ Day or doing good for some other local CBus organization, Andy doesn’t have enough hands for everything he is involved in. In all honestly, it is partly his passion that inspired me to get more involved myself! Finding out that The Dick & Jane Project was yet another philanthropy he was involved in did not come as a surprise.

Wanna contribute to the The Dick & Jane Project??

“An easy and effective way for someone to participate with the project is to listen to the songs, become inspired by them, and share them with family and friends. Every song we release can be listened to for free anytime on our song page. Buying music is the most straightforward way to donate to the project.  100% of the proceeds from CD sales go toward facilitating future workshops.  It’s a win-win for everyone.  You get to listen to awesome, catchy, and impactful music.  In return, we’ll facilitate the production of more awesome, catchy, and impactful music. Giving to The Dick & Jane Project is an empowering way to give back to the community by supporting young writers in their quest to inspire the world through their personal expression. We offer unique incentives for individual and group donations, from listening to a professionally recorded song you helped fund to getting to watch, in real time, a song get created.”

Well, that’s pretty bangarang, being able to see a live performance of one of the songs created my the kids and musicians! Although they do not have volunteer opportunities listed, they do say that you can email them with your interest and they will find a place for you! Are you in the education field?? Contact The Dick & Jane Project to come to your building and go through their workshops with your students! Although the project mainly focuses on middle schoolers, I will definitely be looking into the possibility of these folks coming to Downtown High School.

As one of the students says at the end of their informational video,

 “Music can touch people’s hearts. A lot of people will not admit to that or not say so, but music can have a large impact on the behavior of people – and that’s important.”

 From the mouths of babes, folks.

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All information was obtained from www.thedickandjaneproject.org

Find D & J on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/The-Dick-and-Jane-Project/181523561881904

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And please, DON’T FORGET!!! If there is a worthwhile cause on your radar, I would LOVE to hear about it! Perhaps it will make it onto this month’s Ending Up Helping series!

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