Tuff Sound apprenticeship engineers Sundiata Rice and Joshua Baldelomar working on a project. Photo by Hayes Vif.

Mac Miller had a vision of helping give young people the chance to explore the arts and perhaps even build creative careers. He wanted to have this positive impact in his hometown of Pittsburgh and in communities throughout the country.

In the wake of his untimely death at 26 in September of last year, the Mac Miller Fund at The Pittsburgh Foundation was set up to fulfill that vision. Last spring, two $50,000 grants to music programs in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles were announced.

This week, that work continues with the announcement of a $100,000 grant, to be paid over a three-year period, that will provide operating funds for the YMCA Lighthouse Project‘s music programs for teens and young adults, and for apprenticeships at Tuff Sound Recording, the YMCA’s training program for young adults interested in becoming sound engineers.

“He cared very much about working to make the world a kinder place and we will continue to do just that,” Miller’s family members stated as they announced the new funding.

Program managers at the Lighthouse Project will host an open house on Dec. 17 to let students tour the facility and learn about upcoming programs.

Now in its 13th year, Lighthouse helps teens use project-based learning to explore their interests in music, film, photography and visual arts with help from teaching artists. Beyond musical skill and potential job training, it helps teens become more confident as leaders and serves to build a strong community.

Programs include singing/songwriting, beat-making, podcasting, graphic design, photography and video, hip-hop dance and deejaying.

Mac Miller remained closely connected and committed to Pittsburgh even after his talent brought him international fame. Photo courtesy of MTV.

“These programs give young people a voice and empower them, through technical and transferable skills, for life after high school,” said James Brown, director of Creative Youth Development at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA, in an announcement about the grant.

The music industry places an emphasis on “who is standing on the stage,” Brown said. “But to build an industry, you also need people behind the scenes. We’re helping to grow the music industry in Pittsburgh by making sure young people of color from neighborhoods like Homewood are involved.”

Beyond access to industry-standard technology and software, and studio time in a world-class recording facility, students get a daily snack and dinner, transportation home within a three-mile radius, and presentation and performance opportunities across the city, along with mentorship from working artists.

The fund was established in the wake of Miller’s death last September. Photo courtesy of Emmai Alaquiva.
The fund was established in the wake of Miller’s death last September. Photo courtesy of Emmai Alaquiva.

On hiatus since May 2017, the Tuff Sound program will resume thanks to the Mac Miller Fund grant. This yearlong educational program offers Pittsburghers ages 16 to 24 a chance to learn audio engineering, mixing and production.

Students learn from Herman Pearl, head engineer and owner of Tuff Sound Recording, and the Lighthouse Project’s Music Coordinator Amos Levy. During a 10-week intensive course, they can create a portfolio of work. The following year, these young apprentices collaborate with local musicians and media makers to further build their audio engineering skills.

The grant will provide three years of funding and is expected to serve about 30 young people. Recruitment begins Dec. 17 for a cohort that will begin this spring.

The Lighthouse Project also partners with the Community College of Allegheny County: “Teens already hang out and learn here at the Y,” Brown said, and “by offering teens college credit courses, we’re helping to tear down barriers facing young people by showing first-generation students that college is for them.”

So far, the Mac Miller Fund has raised nearly $1 million through proceeds from the 2018 “Mac Miller: A Celebration of Life” concert and donations from the public.

Melissa Rayworth

Kidsburgh Editor Melissa Rayworth specializes in stories about culture, gender, design and parenting. She has written for a variety of outlets in the U.S. and Asia, and is a frequent contributor to The Associated Press. Find a selection of her work at melissarayworth.pressfolios.com.