Though educational attainment rates have relatively changed, the racial disparities — specifically among those with a bachelor’s degree or higher — have remained the same. According to the Journal of Black in Higher Education, “…only 48 percent of all Black students who entered bachelor’s degree programs at four-year institutions in 2013 earned their degree within six years.” Furthermore, “the Black student college graduation rate of 48 percent was 22 percentage points lower than the rate for whites and 31 percentage points below the rate for Asian Americans. The Black student graduation rate trailed the rates for Hispanics by 13 percentage points.” The racial achievement gap could be attributed to reasons resulting from individual and economic implications. Still, there have been many efforts in education reform to narrow the gaps.
Much like what host Rodney Rikai noted in the latest installment of REVOLT’s “Stand Up For” series, presented by State Farm, “…getting an education is not just about classes and course. It’s about how to ready yourself for the world and obtain a career.”
On the latest episode, he sat down with two special Grammy award-winners, singer-songwriter James Fauntleroy and producer Larrance Dopson, the masterminds behind 1500 Studio Academy. The institution, located in Inglewood, California, is one of many organizations doing its part to ensure Black students are suited with the tools they need to succeed and obtain lasting careers in society, primarily by providing educational resources for the music community.
“It’s literally as many tools as we could think of to give somebody the best opportunity when they’re chasing their dreams,” says Fauntleroy when describing the nature of the music institution that not only provides courses relating to the music field, but mentorship programs and professional development. “This is like getting your full tool belt. You know from what kind of artists you’re into or whatever your dream is or maybe it’s that you like to sing or dance, but maybe you’re not familiar with television and film sync. That’s when you have music on TV or in a movie that makes you money.
“Or you don’t know about management or touring and all these other things. You can still be close to — be in your dream — and take so many advantages of opportunities people don’t even know out there.”
Dopson described the inspiration behind creating the school as a need to do something that could “change the world.” Meanwhile, Rikai compared the academy to Professor Xavier’s school for the gifted. “You know, this is like X-Men school,” Dopson agreed. “We wanted to create a safe space for people that care about details as much as we do. And when you do that, that’s when you shift culture, and we wanted to create a world — call them — ‘cultural coders.’”
Education has always been a critical component in Fauntleroy’s life, and what the “Mistletoe” singer credits as the driving force behind everything he’s doing at the 1500 Studio Academy and throughout his career. “It is the reason,” he says of how significant knowledge is to him. “Learning and studying life, studying music. Studying as many skills as possible to support the ability to communicate my idea. So, when we first started in the game, one of the first people I wrote with — I don’t know how or why — one of the first people that I wrote with was Teddy Riley. One day I walked in, and he was sitting on a gearbox with a drill, some Gorilla Glue before it was used for hair products, and several different synthesizers and the box. So, I walked in the room, and I’m like, ‘What are you doing? What’s happening? Should I be alarmed? Should I leave?’ And he told me he was building a Vocoder. I mean, that just blew my mind that that is even an ability that someone would want to even have. He said, ‘Not only can I build this machine, but I could use the machine. I could play the piano. I could mix it. I could use every piece of equipment in here.’ And he said, ‘The more knowledge you have, the more control you’ll have over what you’re able to produce. The more money you’ll make.’”
The institution is also strategic with its teaching style by not bringing in professors by trade, but the people who have seen the skillset work and have profited immensely from it including Kendrick Lamar, Roddy Ricch, the late Nipsey Hussle, and much more.
“I think in general, especially in education at something like this, we just thought from day one that that’s something that could make us different we could just bring in people who are currently doing it like that give you some real-time experience about the situation,” Fauntleroy explained. “But what we didn’t realize was how excited, and enthusiastic people would be. So, like, we have not only celebrities but every level — executive — all types of different relevant industry. So I think that not only having someone that could come in and tell you a little bit about their life, something a lot about their lives, we’ve heard from some people. But just giving you those extra things that a practitioner knows that you might not be able pass through the curriculum alone.”
Fauntleroy ended the discussion with one final gem: “The more you learn, the more control you’ll have over what you’re able to produce. The more money you’ll make. The more successful you’ll be. The more you’ll be able to express what’s inside, and that’s really what people want. We want you to get some money but what you really want is to be happy.”
Tune into “REVOLT BLACK NEWS’s” “Stand Up For” series above for the entire conversation with James Fauntleroy and Larrance Dopson.