By Michael Abeyta

DENVER (CBS4) – There’s a club at East High School in Denver that’s different.

It allows students to make their own music.

East High School (credit: CBS)

East Beats helps teenagers break out of their shell.

Wednesdays after the final bell rings, a small group of students lead by a quiet young man named Shawndell Shaw meets.

Shawndell Shaw (credit: CBS)

“Shawndell is very talented. He’s a little quiet, but he’s got a really, really active mind,” Ronald Sally, Shaw’s mentor, said.

He’s quiet, until you ask him about the thing he loves most in this whole world, then he transforms.

Randall Sally (credit: CBS)

“My rap is like a second personality. That’s why I love music because it lets me talk in another way,” he said.

Shaw and other students want to learn how to express themselves through music.

“In this club we teach kids at East High School how to produce their own tracks and how other tracks are made,” Shaw said.

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“We talk. We make beats. Sometimes we will talk about each other’s beats…when we give each other pointers, it really matters,” said Elio Chambers-Marshall.

Shaw founded the club.

“I was talking to the students one day in class about what type of extracurricular activities they were involved in and he just very quietly said, ‘Mr. Sally I started a club,’ and I said ‘What? What club?’” Sally said.

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Now, in an English classroom on the third floor, a few loyal kids united by their love for hip hop, teach each other about music, culture, and even promotion, like the project they are working on.

“We needed some way to make revenue and selling cookies outside… like let’s do something bigger, and so let’s do a rap battle,” Shaw said.

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A few weeks later, their plan became reality. This time, the turnout was meager, mostly teachers, friends, and family members. Sally says that is still a big deal.

“I think it’s really, really important that everybody in a kid’s village supports them as best as they can,” Sally said.

The size of the crowd isn’t really important. For the students, it was enough to gain experience, to share their passions, and to be loud instead of staying quiet.

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Breaking out of their shells and trying something new is how students grow and East Beats lets them do just that – grow.

“You’ve got to keep experiencing or else nothing is going to change or get better,” Chambers-Marshal said.

Michael Abeyta is a 4th generation Coloradan and a Multimedia Journalist for CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 5 & 6. He is on Twitter! Follow him @AbeytaCBS4.


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