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by Allyson S.

The Memphis Music Initiative has really lived up to the objective of planting seeds and fruitful information into the hearts and minds of teenagers of color in a safe environment. We have become a community of strong leaders, better artists, and creative individuals. Our thinking has widened its horizons because of the teachings and “nuggets” that Mrs. Brittney (Bullock, Youth Program Manager for MMI Works) has placed in our lives. Her witty attitude and courageous ambition has showed us that anything is possible if we have hard work and dedication. Looking back on all the things that her team has done for us, I am truly grateful for this opportunity. This has been one of the best decisions I have ever made contributing to my craft. This program has opened many doors for me and many of my other peers. With this being my first real job, I had a mindset of nervousness and discomfort, but just the welcoming vibe from everyone alone reached my heart. When I started focusing on building lasting relationships, I saw that many people were open to getting to know me and getting connected. This tore down my walls as being a closeted and shy person; which I definitely no longer am.

My work site was the Hattiloo Theater, which is an all-black repertory theater in the Overton Square area. Hattiloo has really been a catalyst for me in meeting new people who look like me and are doing things that I hope to do in the future. The work atmosphere was amazing. It seemed as though we were all on one wavelength of energy that just kept on fueling. We had so many laughs and beautiful conversations about life, family, and many other things. The adults that we were working with really treated us with the utmost respect. Seeing everyone everyday and building relationships with these people, has showed me to not be afraid to trust people who have the best intentions for you. I can honestly say that these are some of the people that I hope to know for a very long time. I feel as though I have been planted at Hattiloo. I plan on volunteering during the school year and helping with more theater productions. The theater production that we put a lot of time into was the musical Aida, which was a love story about an Egyptian man and a Nubian woman whose love was doomed from the very start. The cast was just flawless and spot on with the various characters that they had to portray. Saying goodbye to Aida was bittersweet, but the time away from it gave us the energy to put into our production that we were creating.

My experience with MMI wasn’t just in the summer. I had the pleasure of working with Ms. Marisa Poleski during the school year at White Station High School. With her being my Music Engagement Teaching Fellow, I got hands-on teachings for free. I didn’t have to travel all over Memphis looking for the perfect teacher. She has taught me many things about having confidence in my instrument and playing with more musicality. Ms. Poleski has given me the knowledge to play more skillfully as a musician. Through her private teachings, I had the honor of being promoted to the advanced orchestra at White Station. Truthfully, before I met Ms. Poleski, I wasn’t passionate about the violin. I saw it as something that I just stuck with through middle school. Now, I see that it can be a beautiful tool for me to be successful one day and it is truly a unique expression. I believe that the violin has become a part of me that has solidified over time with Ms. Poleski. The violin will definitely play a big roll in my life next year and many years to come.

In conclusion, MMI has been one of the best things that has happened in my life. It has made me become more confident as an artist and really just showed me the different personalities of people. The program has so many diverse people, and getting to know the stories of these people is a huge take-away for me. I will never forget my experience at MMI Works and Hattiloo Theater.