Urban Entertainment Institute

Fred Martin, Inner-city Kids build character and futures using M-Audio gear.

Raised in Compton, California, Fred Martin developed a passion for music at an early age. But when his parents had to choose between renting his saxophone and feeding a family of 12, his opportunity to learn the instrument fell by the wayside. He vowed that if he ever had the means, he wouldn’t let poverty prevent other children from pursuing their dreams—and now he’s fulfilling that mission through the Urban Entertainment Institute. Founded by Martin in 2002, the after-school program trains youths in the performing arts at no charge to their families. By building his students’ self-confidence and teaching them to use cutting-edge technology like the music workstations provided by M-Audio, Martin ensures their success in today’s competitive job market.

“A lot of times you see artistic talent in the form of graffiti,” says Martin. “On their own, some kids don't know they have a gift, but we can take it and hone it into something—so the person who was breaking the law can become an animation artist, or a fashion designer. The Institute opens up a whole new world to them through different forms of technology. I often say that our kids are not underprivileged; they're underexposed. If we can continue to expose them to something positive, the sky's the limit.”

Technology in Action

Since leveraging today’s technology is essential to career success, The Urban Entertainment Institute features several computer-based music workstations. The setups include M-Audio’s FireWire 410 interface, Pro Tools M-Powered software, Black Box guitar modeling/recording interface, Luna microphone, ProKeys 88 stage piano, Trigger Finger control surface and ProSessions sound libraries—giving students the opportunity to learn on the same industry-standard tools that the pros use.

“It’s common for people to donate outdated gear to inner city programs,” says Martin. “Even though it’s appreciated, it means the students are five years behind what's out there in the professional world. The Institute is remarkable because the equipment our students are learning on is keeping time with what is actually out in the field, so they’re not at a disadvantage when they go out to get jobs.”

The Levite Camp Success Story

Instead of enlisting a big-name celebrity to support the Institute’s fundraising efforts, Martin developed a new group of stars to testify about the organization that transformed their lives. The first students to pass through the Institute became The Levite Camp, an eight-member group comprised of vocalists and musicians. In addition to releasing Some Bridges—a Concord Records CD featuring collaborations with Jackson Browne, Hugh Masakela, Keb’ Mo’ and Ozomatli—Fred Martin and The Levite Camp have backed up Ray Charles, appeared in Man Of The House with Cedric The Entertainer and Tommy Lee Jones, sang the Pacific Care theme song and more.  As they’ve started to experience success after years of hard work, the group remains committed to giving back.

“There were 12 tribes of Israel in the Bible, and the Levites were the tribe chosen to make music,” explains Martin. “They were musicians and priests, but they also worked in their communities. The Levite Camp feels that we were chosen to give music to the world—and when we're not doing that, we're serving our community. We're working with the L.A. Food Bank, and we offer all our classes for free. We're keeping true to our name.

“Nobody needs a handout, but everybody needs a hand,” Martin concludes. “We want people who believe in what we’re doing and who want to be part of this.” To learn more and get involved with The Urban Entertainment Institute and The Levite Camp, visit http://urbaninst.com and http://www.myspace.com/fredmartinandthelevitecamp.