By M. Alexis Scott (www.atlantadailyworld.com)
Travis Morgan and Rod Whittaker have been making music since they were in high school. Now they are joining forces to ensure that future generations enjoy the same opportunities that they had.
Their documentary, “Band Room: Cadence for Conscience” premieres on Jan. 28, 2011 with an awards ceremony presented by Musical Youth of America.
“We’re a product of the Atlanta music scene,” Whittaker said in a recent interview.
His documentary partner Morgan chimed in, “We were playing in clubs and traveling the world even before we were old enough to be in clubs.”
Now, they say, the music scene has changed. “Hip Hop artists are no longer playing instruments,” said Whittaker, who is still an active musician. He plays bass with his group called The Maxx. “This is a problem. They’re missing the basics. Instrumentation is a lost art in the urban community.”
“Kids today are missing out,” added Morgan, who played trumpet and was a drum major when he was a student at Price High School. Now a filmmaker, Morgan knows the importance of band music. “That’s why we’re pushing to bring musical instruments back.”
Whittaker, who also founded Musical Youth of America, serves as the executive producer of the new film, while Morgan is its director. Morgan said he made the transition from playing music to becoming an independent filmmaker by producing music videos. “Everybody had a place to record,” Morgan said, “but nobody was offering broadcast quality video production.”
He said he began doing music videos about 10 years ago. “The first time I put down the video and put the music track under it, it was instant love,” Morgan said. He’s been making videos and movies ever since.
Musical Youth of America was started to provide musical training and experiences for elementary and middle school youth, Whittaker said. It’s important to start music education while students are still young, he said. His organization raises money to help youth with lessons, instruments and scholarships.
“We also wanted to do something for high school kids,” he said. So the idea of a film was born. He said he met with Morgan back in the summer through a mutual acquaintance, and they instantly clicked on the project.
Both say they see the film as a way to advocate for music in schools. Music programs provide students with structure and discipline and offer them many opportunities that they might not otherwise have, they said.
The film and awards ceremony is set for 7 p.m. on Jan. 28, 2011 in the auditorium of the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency downtown. It is free and open to the public with limited seating. For more information and a trailer about the film, visit www.bandroomnation.com.
The film focuses on Tri-Cities High School, and the duo sees it as the first in a series over the next five years. Whittaker said that will allow enough time to evaluate the impact that they might have on local music programs.
“These films can serve as fundraising opportunities for high school music programs,” Whittaker said. “The band can sell the video to friends and relatives.”
They hope the project will have wide-reaching effects.
“We want more kids in music programs,” Morgan said. It’s an opportunity for post-secondary scholarships, even if they not looking for a career in music. . . . Thousands of kids can benefit.”