‘Voices From Flint’

MCC students give voice to society’s most marginalized

FLINT — “Voices From Flint” is a collection of original music pieces that give voice to the real stories of marginalized populations in our community. It is the brainchild of Dr. Bill Withem and Debra Gibes. Withem wanted to challenge students in his Music Technology class to go outside their comfort zone for their final project. He also wanted to bring elements of service and experiential learning to the course – that’s where Gibes came in.

“I wanted to give my students a more relevant and powerful learning experience,” said Withem, Associate Professor of Music at MCC. “The assignment was to interview someone who is disenfranchised in society, record a 30-minute interview, and then take that interview and create a four-minute song using the interview as the lyrics.” The goal was to produce a professional quality sound using a combination of music and voice, he added. The result is “Voices From Flint.”

The “voices” represented include the disabled, homeless, and people who have endured hardships yet still tell a message of hope, said Withem.

He worked with Gibes, Director of Experiential Learning at Mott Community College (MCC), to incorporate the service and experiential learning components, and provide the voices – people whose stories often go untold and whose voices are not always heard.

The two contacted various social service agencies to find people for the students to interview. Participating organizations included Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Club of Flint, Carriage Town Ministries, Shelter of Flint, YWCA, Crossover Downtown Outreach Ministry and MCC’s Disability Services and Gateway to College program. One student, whose scheduled interview fell through, approached a homeless man he had previously met in downtown Flint and was able to get a powerful “on-the-street” interview.

“This provided a lot of value for my students, not just from the technical challenge, but also from working with disenfranchised people. For many of them, the experience of meeting these people who are outside their everyday orbit and whose lives are very different from theirs, broadened their horizons,” said Withem.

Withem also partnered with Graphic Design Program Coordinator Jim Shurter on the project. Shurter’s Graphic Design students took the finished music pieces and created kinetic typography videos to go with them. Kinetic typography is the technical name for “moving text,” a technique mixing motion and text using video animation.

The finished pieces, both musical and the kinetic typography, will be presented in a concert April 27 at 7 p.m. in the Regional Technology Center (RTC) Auditorium on the main campus in Flint. In addition, the participating social services agencies will be on hand with information about their services. — L.R.

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