Local that Works is an annual contest that spotlights innovative and replicable content, engagement and revenue initiatives at public radio and TV stations, and nonprofit news organizations in the U.S.
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Grace Weber’s Music Lab (GWML) is a free monthly music education program and talent accelerator for Milwaukee area high schoolers, providing opportunities to refine performance skills; build connections between engaged and talented young people; expose participants to the multiple career opportunities available in creative industries; and to participate in performances and talks by professional musicians, entertainment industry professionals and artists. This program is critical to meeting the growing and changing needs of our city and youth – Grace Weber’s Music Lab reaches kids with art forms that are increasingly relevant and central to their lives, including diverse music from hip-hop to alternative to spoken word.
Block Club Chicago hosted a free resource fair on the West Side, bringing together 21 community organizations to offer free food, toiletries and health screenings to residents. Our neighborhood reporter was also on hand to take story tips and meet people.
This unique project offered our region’s storytellers the platform needed to disseminate their films to a new audience through broadcast distribution of their finished films. The initiative served filmmakers from the Keys to the Treasure Coast with an audience reach of over 6.3 million thus deepening the understanding of ourselves and our neighbors.
The South Florida PBS Virtual LGBTQ Town Halls series consisted of four virtual town halls that were meant to provide an online platform where LGBTQ and straight residents could interact and share experiences in a safe atmosphere.
Science Pub BING engages the community of the Southern Tier of New York connecting them with regional scientists and experts in a lectures series followed by a lively Q& A session. These events are designed to offer the public a greater understanding of science, technology and engineering happening at our local universities and area businesses, while these experts hone their science communication skills bringing complex topics to the general public.
WUFT created a first-time event for North Florida fans of Downton Abbey. This in-person event included a costume contest, admission to a movie screening and an opportunity for the community to interact with other local PBS supporters to discuss their one of their favorite shows. Two events took place in one day and participants were able to give back to WUFT monetarily with a donation for admission to the event.
School, Interrupted, from WFDD’s Hive education program, is the manifestation of what happens when we stop being afraid of what teenagers have to say and we start listening instead. Students in WFDD’s for-credit Radio 101 high school class delved into the issue of school violence through a series of stories that developed into a Town Hall exclusively for teens to discuss their fears, assumptions, and experiences in today’s high schools.
WCTE’s largest fundraiser asks for donations and then auctions off everything on live TV. This helps promote businesses in our community.
St. Louis Public Radio’s livestream on Twitch has transformed the way our journalists connect with our audience and gives both the space and support to examine challenging news thoughtfully.
Radio Milwaukee – Grace Weber’s Music Lab
The Music Lab was formed out of vocalist Grace Weber’s desire to give back to her city. Looking for a community partner, Weber reached out to 88Nine. Radio Milwaukee is one of the organizations transforming Milwaukee and galvanizing people to participate in its revitalization. Our unique mission, talented staff and Walker’s Point home makes us uniquely equipped to spearhead this effort. GWML channels the momentum in our music scene, while also addressing the city’s unique racial and social challenges by educating and uniting area youth.
GWML takes place monthly during the school year at Radio Milwaukee’s studios, reaching up to 100 youth per event. A critical element is recruiting participants from across Milwaukee to facilitate connections between students who may otherwise never meet. Partnerships with youth development organizations and high schools support recruitment efforts. Each Lab begins with a 30-minute educational module led by a professional musician or industry expert about different elements of the music business. The next hour is devoted to students’ open mic performances. After each performance, teaching artists and guests lead short, affirmative critiques and conversations with the students.
In the interest of safety during COVID-19, GWML quickly pivoted to virtual programming in March, and saw an increase in attendance with an amazing 606 participants in May’s Lab!
GWML’s caliber relies on the passion and expertise of artists involved, stoking enthusiasm, drawing on real life expertise and providing actionable feedback. We are proud of the musicians and educators who make this possible:
Founder – Grace Weber is a Milwaukee-born, Grammy-winning vocalist, actively working out of LA and returning to Milwaukee for each in-person Lab. With extensive connections in the industry, she is perfectly positioned to program events that are relevant and compelling to young artists.
Music Education Coordinator – Britney Freeman-Farr/B~Free, an educator and accomplished vocalist and flutist, oversees GWML. She brings her experience as a former school music director and practicing artist.
Grace and Britney represent white and Black communities, private and public schooling and a broad range of experiences, making them understanding and responsive to the students they serve. Further, GWML incorporates student voices through surveys, interviews and an internship program. Examples of past featured guests include Jamila Woods; Aja Monet; WebsterX; Nate Fox, Nico Segal, and Peter Cottontail of The Social Experiment; Lex Allen; Kweku Mandela and Elliott Skinner.
An important investment in the soul of a city is creating opportunities for youth to participate and benefit from a thriving music scene. We believe that student collaboration through music is critical to bridging the divides in Milwaukee communities. We hope that new friendships — and maybe even Milwaukee’s next big thing — will form.
While still a relatively new program, started in 2016, we are beginning to see the ripple effects of the program; Grace Weber’s Music Lab: - Offers free master classes and workshops to Milwaukee youth with nationally known artists; - Motivates students to be themselves, build confidence and nurture their unique talents; - Shows young people various career opportunities in the music and entertainment industries; - Builds bridges between students from different backgrounds and high schools; to date over 43 Milwaukee area high schools have been represented; - Builds relationships extending across communities between young people that would otherwise not meet, connect or collaborate; - Creates exciting opportunities for local students to: strengthen their own work while collaborating with other young artists; deepen their personal appreciation of and exposure to diverse music and entertainment industries; nourish creative and professional potential of emerging Milwaukee area artists; and match participants with resources and opportunities to facilitate their own career development. - Specifically during COVID-19, as many schools will remain virtual and physical distancing remains the norm, the continuation of the Music Lab provides a place for release, socialization, connection and creativity. Through virtual programming we’ve had over 900 attendees! Participant quotes illustrating impact: “This place was magical. You could feel it in the air. I could touch it, you know?” "I felt like I was going to cry. This made me know that music is what I should do, that I have a purpose. This is the best day ever.” “Being able to perform a poem I created for an audience for the first time was extremely life changing for me. The feeling of having my message heard and accepted by the audience is a beautiful feeling that I only dreamed about, but Grace and her team turned it into a reality.”
Yes, the Music Lab has generated revenue and continues to connect Radio Milwaukee with funding partners that it did not previously have relationships with, specifically institutional funders. In 2018, $40,000 from three funders; in 2019, $50,300 from five funders; and in 2020, $61,000 and counting, from six funders (four of which are new to Radio Milwaukee)