Monday, December 5, 2022
Aloe Blacc Mentors Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center Student Recording Session
By Shonassee Shaver, Contributing Writer
Published February 22, 2017
Grammy nominated singer and songwriter mentors youthful musicians at the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center.

Grammy nominated singer and songwriter mentors youthful musicians at the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center.

It was cold and rainy a couple of weeks ago, when the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus (JLETB) pulled in the parking lot across from Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center (FPCAC) on February 3 in the Leimert Park neighborhood, where the Arts Center rehearsed and readied their performances with Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Aloe Blacc.

Located at 3351 W. 43rd Street in South Los Angeles, FPCAC is a non-profit organization that provides quality arts instruction to 600 under-served students between 5-to-20 years of age. The art center serves all students with a desire to learn and grow their talent.

Founder Fernando Pullum is an educator and professional musician. A Chicago native, Pullum beat the odds and earned his Bachelor’s degree in music education and Master’s in trumpet performance. In 2012, he opened FPCAC. His talent and knowledge garnered him recognition among his constituents and iconic industry tastemakers.


Pullum’s goal is to give FPCAC students the best of both worlds when it comes to education and performing arts. He argues that music programs help to improve self -esteem and performance in school.

“I really don’t care about the arts so much, this is about raising someone’s self-esteem,” said Pullum.

“When they create and start playing a song, there are so many elements that go along with that. You have to look at the conductor, you have to listen, analyze the symbols, sing, count and be cohesive.

“That is really demanding and I think these skills transfer to other areas. I found out that a lot of Medical Schools are recruiting music students, because they learn rules, but they know how to break them as well. You can’t have a cure for cancer, if all you do is follow the rules, you break the rules to create art. Cultivating and enhancing their musical skills can motivate students to focus and invest in their education.

“Music programs are scarce; the lack of funding and not being a top priority can contribute to reasons for little to no programs. It almost feels like a conspiracy when they start taking music, art and sports out of schools in the hood.

“That’s been such as gateway for people to exit. They come to school so that they can participate in those activities. I worked at Washington Prep for 22 years, fifteen of those years, 100% students graduated,” said the former music teacher.


“In our neighborhood, they’ll ask if you are going to college, in Beverly Hills, they ask which college are you going to? We are trying to change those dialogues and show them that it is possible. When you see kids who look like you, eating the same nasty food and walking down the same streets you walk down, it becomes realistic.”

Pullum revealed he grew up rough and poor in an unstable family. Music helped him defeat the odds.

“Music saved my life literally, I got to see different aspects of the world, because I was playing and they get to see the same. Stevie Wonder has played with my kids, Jackson Browne, Herbie Hancock and Aloe Blacc is here today. To play with artists like that, is pretty ridiculous and it pushes them to go a long way.”

He not only invests in his students, but advocates for them to receive attention they need to grow. Regardless of FPCAC being at a disadvantage to having the luxury to record in a studio, Pullum does not waste time on socioeconomic limitations.

“I can easily take these kids to another community to record and have these experiences, but every time I take them some place else, it makes them feel a little bit less, so no, they need to come to us. It took some courage in the Lennon Foundation to come to the hood.”

Many aspiring musicians and artists go the journey of getting a studio session, however, for Pullum students, it was short of nothing with the convenience of a non-traditional tour bus and an award nominee.

Aloe Blacc who is a celebrated soul artist, came to fame with hits “I Need A Dollar”, “The Man” and “Wake Me Up” with Swedish DJ Avicii. His success shows that his career in music goes deeper than touring, hit songs and awards, but to the heart of where music originates from, early on in an artist’s career. The singer and song-writer confessed he was once an aspiring musician, who credits his career to mentoring.

“It’s super exciting and I am happy that I get a chance to do this,” said Blacc on being able to actively investing in aspiring artists. “When I was growing up I didn’t think of music as a career, it was a hobby.”

The singer tells kids to think of music as a leisure activity, something they want to do first.

“If it becomes a career that’s fine, but you should always do it for the love and for the community.”


Blacc was effective in producing tracks and praising students as he mentored a chorus. He gave advice on songwriting and led singers according to their pitch and range. From keyboardists, percussionists, vocalists, and saxophone players, he took a few at a time to show them the ins-and-outs of a recording session.

Aloe Blacc poses with music hopefuls on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. (Photo Courtesy: John Lennon Educational Tour Bus)

Aloe Blacc poses with music hopefuls on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. (Photo Courtesy: John Lennon Educational Tour Bus)

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus provided three on-board engineers during the recording process.

Inspired by legendary group, The Beatles, band member John Lennon and iconic artist and activist Yoko Ono Lennon established the JLETB, a non-profit state-of-the-art mobile audio, video and live production facility. Students can learn how to write, record and produce original songs, music videos, documentaries, and live multi-camera video productions streamed to the web in real-time in one day.

The Bus travels the country visiting schools, music and technology conferences and events, and partners with communities and media outlets to call attention to the importance of arts and digital media education. The Lennon Education Tour Bus reaches out to often overlooked talented young children and teenagers.

The JLETB gave the youth a chance to showcase their musical talents. The ambitious singers and musicians were confident, poised and relax as they were mentored by Blacc.

Three vocalists sat patiently as they came prepared with original music.

“We wrote a song and a beat that we’re singing along to,” said the three singers. Collectively, the young girls started singing at 4,6 and 7 years-old. On their passion for singing, “I love the voices and how good they sound,” one singer exclaims.

“I was inspired by my sister (singer, Broadway actor and FPCAC teaching artist Shoni Bennet) who taught me how to sing,” said the budding songstress.

The third aspiring singer stated she loves being on stage, singing and acting. On their talents flourishing at the FPCAC, “the center strives to makes us better at what we do.” On being on the Lennon Tour Bus, “they have a lot of buttons and it teaches us how to perform with live instruments.”

Micah, an 11 year-old who plays the drums started playing at the age of three. “When I was younger, I would listen to my cousin and dad play at church and I just got into and then I started playing.”

Pullum and his father inspired him to play the drums professionally. Honor who has been a student for 4 years is a guitarist. He taught himself to play alongside his father who gave him the basics on cords.
“It’s awesome,” he responds on Blacc mentoring their session. Honor, who is a professional would love to follow in his footsteps.

An ambitious trombone player started playing the brass instrument in elementary school. “My friends were playing and as I continued, I got better and started doing more events,” she stated.

“Playing with Aloe Blacc is a great opportunity, meeting someone famous, videos and recording sessions, but my real passion is being in a marching band, playing a little trombone,” said the 17 year-old. She awaits college, looking at Jackson State University. On music classes offered in school verses at FPCAC, “when I’m at school it is more competitive, here it’s about friendship. The Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center helps one another out. It’s a one-on-one thing with Mr. Pullum. We help the kids and connect with one another, this is a helping program.”

An accomplished artist and USC graduate, Blacc encouraged students to continue to practice their craft. “Practice everything that you love, perfect it and then develop your own style out of that.”

On what Pullum want his kids to gain, “I’m trying to give them real life experiences, the opportunity to work with real artists and to be inspired. A lot of the time, these kids end up going to band and dance competitions, but art is not a competition. When I think about Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, they would never win on “The Voice” or “American Idol”, because they are stylistic artists. I like to put art in its right context.” “We’re giving people the chance to tell their story, to express themselves, so they can heal.”

Got to for information on the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center and to learn about the John Lennon Tour Educational Bus.

Categories: Crenshaw & Around | Entertainment
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