Situated on Detroit’s west side in Herman Gardens, sits the Dick & Sandy Dauch Boys & Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan. Inside of the Boys & Girls Club is the recording studio that Detroit rapper Big Sean donated $100,000 to build.
As a youth, Big Sean was a member of the Boys & Girls Club, but the “Single Again” rapper’s philanthropic relationship with the organization started four years ago with the club’s regional President and CEO.
“The donation from the Sean Anderson Foundation really started multiple years ago, when I got introduced to him by a mutual friend from Roc Nation,” explains Sean H. Wilson, the President & CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan.
“When I first moved to Detroit, she was like, ‘Hey, I want to connect you with Sean [Big Sean] and Myra [Big Sean’s mother]. They had their youth foundation [The Sean Anderson Foundation] and I think it was about two or three years old at the time,” Wilson says.
“After meeting them and sitting down with them [I realized that] what I love about them as a team is that Myra’s heart is so amazing and she’s so passionate. When you bring ideas to her, she gets very excited. And that excitement is contagious and then you get excited. And then from Sean’s standpoint, I think he understands his place as an influencer and the important role that he plays in uplifting Detroit,” Wilson continues.
Wilson hosted what he calls “vision sessions” (a survey of 50-75 people at a time) with the community surrounding the Boys & Girls Club, and on several occasions, a recording studio was mentioned among over 1500 ideas that came directly from the community such as a local laundromat and barbershop.
“After sitting in the vision sessions with the community, they kept asking for a production studio and recording studio. I shared that feedback with Sean and Myra and they were all in, and said that they would donate $100,000 to it. But, more importantly, they are hands-on partners. They didn’t just write a check. Myra came to all of the vision sessions. Sean came in early on to see what the progress was and gave his feedback,” Wilson says.
“I think it’s important for people to understand that giving the money is the easiest thing, quite honestly, but giving your time is so powerful and that’s what Myra and Sean did throughout the entire process.”
The process of building the production studio took eight months from start to finish.
“The great thing is Sean, Myra, and the foundation for years has focused on economic mobility or teaching youth the careers behind the entertainment industry,” Wilson explains.
“So they have a curriculum and mogul prep that teaches kids about videography, lighting, and sound. Now, they have a physical space where they can deliver that program year-round to the youth. So the partnership between the Boys & Girls Club and Sean Anderson Foundation is just getting started. Now, year-round, semesters, and summer youth will be able to come here and learn what goes on behind-the-scenes.”
The Dick & Sandy Dauch Boys & Girls Club garners approximately 3,000 members annually and averages about 200-250 students a day. “We’re definitely going to get a lot of usage out of the space,” Wilson says.
Although the production and recording studio has only been open for a short amount of time, some of the Boys and Girls Club students have already gotten a chance to use the state of the art equipment.
Nehemiyah Coles, 13, who said that he wants to be a video game designer when he’s older, has recorded his song “Done” in the studio. The song was created from start to finish in the studio that the Sean Anderson Foundation financed. “It’s a really good studio,” Coles says.
Coles once had struggled with his social skills, but he’s improved and he attributes that to coming to the Boys and Girls Club. “Before I came to the Boys and Girls Club I was terrible at talking to people and coming here has really helped me to talk to people,” Coles explains.
In addition to the $100,000 that was donated to build the production and recording studio, Big Sean also donated merchandise that’s currently for sale on the rapper’s website that is being used as incentives for the youth to do well in regards to behavior and school.
According to Wilson, the Boys and Girls Club hosts “drop-in” sessions where the youth can come and learn about the equipment hands-on. Students are not only garnering an education regarding production, recording, lights, sound, dance, and performance, but they are also building confidence and forging friendships.
Madison Davis said that she enjoys the studio because it offers her an opportunity to practice dancing around familiar faces. “I like coming in here [ recording studio] because they really updated it a lot and I like going on the stage because I like to dance,” says Davis.
“I feel comfortable because it’s just nothing but my friends and people who I like watching me dance,” Davis continued. The 13-year-old also said that she appreciates the Boys and Girls Club because it’s a place where she can cultivate her friendships when she’s not busy with after school events.
“It helped me a lot because maybe if I didn’t have any extracurricular activities at school, I could come to the Boys and Girls Club and hang out with my friends,” Davis says.
Students were welcomed back at the club for the 2019-2020 school year on Sept. 3, and they also had a “demo day” on Sept. 12 where youth were able to test out the new equipment.
With the club’s programming, which started on Sept. 16, Boys and Girls Club members will have an opportunity to learn how to put together B-Roll packages, study social media management, learn how to create a marketing plan, and also how to plan a tour.
Big Sean and his mother Myra aren’t the only Detroiters who have assisted the club with implementing new programs, spaces, and equipment. A church located across from the Boys & Girls Club donated an acre of land that will be used for the club’s forthcoming gardening and food justice program.
The evolution of the Boys and Girls Club doesn’t stop with the Sean Anderson Foundation and the church’s donations. The club also is currently building a dance studio and program, barbershop and hair salon, a test kitchen, a laundromat, and a bee farm to add to the space that currently houses a full basketball court and a brand new co-working space that is available to adult members until youth programming begins.
“The great thing about the Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan is that it specifically has been around for 93 years,” Wilson says. “It’s really rare for me to not bump into anyone who isn’t an alumnus. Big Sean is also an alumnus,” Wilson concludes. And now he’s helping them continue their mission.