Oakland North: Today’s Future Sound teaches kids coping skills … with a beat

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Dr. Elliot Gann and a student work on beat making at a workshop in San Jose. Photo by Carlos De Leon.By Justin Richmond
January 16, 2013

Dr. Elliot Gann is standing in front of his beat-up and stickered black Mazda Protégé in the parking lot of West Oakland Middle School. In his left ear is a Bluetooth earpiece, which, as he eats a Trader Joes sandwich wrap, enables him to lament to a friend the parking ticket he just received. To his side is a worn green Atlantic suitcase that wobbles with a broken wheel. Inside, its contents are packed tight: two sets of studio monitors, two audio interfaces, wires, cables, and cords, and a few MIDI controllers. All of these tools he needs to conduct the workshops he puts on several times a week in Bay Area middle schools.

“Dr. Elliot,” as the children he teaches affectionately call him, is the founder of Today’s Future Sound, a non-profit he started seven months ago to serve under-privileged youth by teaching them music production skills, or beat making. Gann, who received his Ph.D. in psychology from the Wright Institute in 2010, views his service as an alternative to traditional psychology. “It’s an effective way to deliver services that maybe a traditional therapist can’t,” says Gann. What he seeks to accomplish with his non-profit is not simply to improve kids’ music skills, but also to help their own personal development. “It’s teaching kids coping mechanisms. It’s teaching them to regulate themselves,” says Gann. “I think it’s a really healthy way to help kids process trauma.”

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