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Carvin & Ivan: Inside The Dash of Life.

March 24, 2014

CarvinIvanOnline03Text by Ashley Coleman. Images by Michael Bucher.

On an adverse trip to Baltimore for a funeral, Grammy-nominated producer Ivan Barias remembers being confronted with one of the most important questions of his life.

“How are you living your life inside the dash so that you are making a difference in the world?” Barias recalls the minister asking at the funeral.

The minister went on to explain that when a person dies, there are two dates on their tombstone – the day they were born and the day they died. But more important than those dates was what the person did in the dash that separates them. Prior to his encounter, Barias, along with writing and production partner Carvin Haggins, were approached by their management team about how they could give back and leave a legacy bigger than the records they were creating.

So they decided to really focus on getting a program for students off the ground.

The result is Destined to Achieve Successful Heights (D.A.S.H.), a non-profit organization that is the collective work of both Barias and Haggins, along with Michael McArthur, Jerome Hipps and Brandon Pankey. The program gives high school students insight into careers behind the scenes in music, sports and entertainment.

“Most kids want to be in the spotlight, and want to be the stars,” Haggins explains.  “But there are some keynote positions that they can play in this game for the rest of their lives – and get richer or as rich as the artists.”

In 2005, the group decided to bring students to their studio, Home Cookin’, which was located on Delaware Avenue. It was a four-week summer program where they had students from all over the city come down and listen to speakers from a variety of different careers in the music industry. Some of those early supporters of the program included radio personalities Dyana Williams and Q Deezy and music executive Kevin Liles.

After that first session, D.A.S.H. began to partner with multiple schools and afterschool programs, including the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Technology (PCAT). Students have the opportunity to learn first-hand from Barias the basics of music production (including creating tracks using Logic Pro software and learning and understanding music terminology). Barias stresses the importance of education all around.

“We teach them math, whether they know it or not,” Barias explains. “We’re teaching them how to count bars. We’re teaching them tempo. We’re teaching them what a BPM [beats per minute] is. I always ask them, ‘Do you know what else they measure with BPMs? Your heartbeat.’”

After the first session, Haggins comes in and takes them through the process of songwriting. Creating music is just a piece of the bigger picture for the program.

“The main focus is to give them that behind-the-scenes look,” Haggins says. “So, they will have field trips to see live concerts but before they see the concert, they see how the concert was set up. Somebody put the lights up, somebody put the speakers up, somebody set the stage and all of these different jobs that are available that are right here in the music industry.”

Barias and Haggins cite the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff as the mentor who inspired them to take the time to teach the younger generation of music makers. A Touch of Jazz was Jeff’s studio in Philadelphia and it became the home base for many of the prominent producers that emerged from the city. It was also there that Barias and Haggins met and were able to hone their skills as music creators.

“That was the single most important thing that happened to me in my career,” Barias says.

Jeff took a chance on them and the two went on to produce for Philly artists like Musiq Soulchild and Jill Scott, and later for an array of artists in the industry. Barias and Haggins laugh when recalling how much equipment they broke and speakers they blew while learning the ropes.

“How dare we walk away from that and take that blessing and say we’re not going to help anyone else?” Haggins asks.

Teaching keeps their perspective fresh and in-touch with what young people want to hear. Barias finds it refreshing that his students aren’t yet tainted by the politics of the business, while Haggins finds that the students’ passion helps reignite his enthusiasm for music. It’s their hope that, as educators, they will be able to nurture a new generation that will exceed the success they have reached.

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