"Can we stop the violence?"
The question kicks off the chorus of an emotional song on an album recorded by local students. The compilation, titled "Stars of Chattanooga," boasts 13 thoughtful tracks that were recorded using equipment available at local rec centers.
For the past four years, the studios at the Eastdale and South Chattanooga rec centers have offered students the opportunity to create their own music. Creative beats draw listeners into lyrics that offer positive takes on challenges experienced by youth on everything from ambition to style and relationships.
As part of an initiative between the Parks and Recreation Department and the Gang Task Force, select students have been mastering hip-hop and R&B tracks for inclusion on the album. The CD will be released tonight at a party at Hamilton Skate Place, which will include performances by several student artists.
Admission to the event is $9.50, the standard fee charged by the rink on Saturdays. The concert lasts from 7 to 9 p.m.
Brian Smith, public relations coordinator for the city Parks and Rec Department, said the recording program had been successful in part for its ability to offer students something to do that was both positive and popular. Smith said many of the artists had come from difficult childhoods and had been able to incorporate the experience into efforts to transform their lives.
"Many of these stories play out into the songs," Smith said. "Since they've been working, many of [the students] have become better students and begun to turn their grades around."
Several of the tracks have already been played on radio stations, including WGOW 102.3 and Power 94.3 WJTT.
The facilities at South Chattanooga and Eastdale are available for public use and are not limited to hip-hop and R&B-style production. To get involved, contact Parks and Recreation.
To hear the entire "Stars of Chattanooga" compilation, click here.