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'Beats Not Bullets' Empowers Baltimoreans To Succeed In Music Industry

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A Baltimore music education program will be recognized at South by Southwest, one of the country's biggest festivals, next month.

"Beats Not Bullets," a local nonprofit organization, will be presented with the 2022 SXSW Community Service Award for the group's dedication to fostering positive community impact.

SXSW is scheduled for March 11 through March 20 in Austin, Texas.

"A festival of that magnitude and to bring Baltimore there and Beats Not Bullets there is humbling and exciting," said MC Bravado, program coordinator for Beats Not Bullets. "It shows us we're doing something right for sure."

The program teaches students the ins and outs of the music industry, from performing to the technical side—even networking.

Organization leaders say they're now looking for some viable ed-tech partnerships to help boost their curriculum with financial literacy, entrepreneurism and technology skills in hope of creating job opportunities in Baltimore.

"So, even if a student doesn't go into music, they have more universal skills," MC Bravado said.

Dawuane Johnson, who goes by "Bigwuane" on stage, is a recent program graduate who is hoping to make a big break in the music industry.

"This program impacted my life incredibly," Johnson said. "I want to be a superstar."

Now, he's one step closer to that goal as he was chosen to perform at SXSW alongside program coordinator MC Bravado and other artists.

"I'm ready," Johnson said. "I'm so hype I just want to go out there and do my best and have fun."

"I think Juan is one of the best students that we have period, ever in the program, so I'm excited for his talent to shine because he deserves it," MC Bravado added.

Besides receiving an award and performing at SXSW, Beats Not Bullets will be curating a panel during the EDU portion of the festival.

"We were able to curate a panel that talks about hip hop's emerging educational industry," MC Bravado said. "There's a lot more schools and universities that are implementing hip hop into their curriculum, aligning hip hop with sound pedagogy and learning goals and just showing it has an actual place in the classroom."

Program leaders and graduates say they hope to continue serving the Baltimore community as a positive outlet for growth for years to come.

"What they're doing here is really incredible and I can really see the changes its making in people's life," Johnson said.

Beats Not Bullets will be hosting a fundraiser show in April. It's scheduled for 9 p.m. April 22 at the Metro Gallery in Baltimore. Proceeds will go towards the Beats Not Bullets program.

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