Catfish Music helps get kids off streets and into studios

In an effort to get deserving inner-city youth off the streets and into the music studio, veteran composer Jeff Boyle’s Catfish Music is working to find music companies that will take these young adults under their wing as interns.

“Getting these kids to marinate in music companies will open their eyes to the diverse opportunities available to them,” says Boyle, who has written more than 1,700 commercial music tracks for clients including McDonald’s, Boeing, TVLand, Diet Coke, Toyota, Kraft, Chilli’s and many others, over his three decades as part of Chicago’s burgeoning music scene.

The just-completed training classes consisted of two classes of eight students each – seven young men and one young woman. They met at Catfish’s River North studio for for three hours once a week for 12 weeks.

“The science of Sound: an introduction to digital audio software and the fundamentals of studio engineering” was one of the classes taught by Boyle, his wife, Lisa Boyle, Catfish business manager and producer, voiceover/actor Jeff Morrow and composer Blue Bolten.

The program is a joint venture between Catfish and The Safer Foundation, one of the nation’s largest non-profit providers of services for people with criminal records, and Central States SER, a 25-year old work force development/education organization that brings together youth and work opportunities.

Their mission is to educate young people about the music industry, with a focus on engineering, and then find them internships at recording studios. So far, says Boyle, “We have tentative internship agreements with CRC, radio station V-103 and Optimus.

The training project was the brainchild of Boyle and his Joliet East high school friend, Xavier Williams, “a social worker who has dedicated his life to helping inner-city youth. He would hang out at Catfish and talk about his idea for a ‘Hip Hop Boot Camp’ as a way to get some deserving youngsters off the streets and into the studio,” Boyle explains.

After about eight years of persistent effort, with no real backing, Williams brought together The Safer Foundation and Central States SER to launch the unique training project with Boyle.

One of the first things Boyle did was to find an African American superstar in the recording industry. That role model was veteran recording engineer Danny Leake, currently the live-mix engineer for Stevie Wonder.

Leake had worked with many platinum artists, including Janet Jackson, Kanye West, Sting, Hank Williams Jr. and New Edition. during his many years at Universal Recording, Chicago’s flagship studio from 1955 to 2005.

“Danny had worked his way out of the West Side projects to essentially become a self-taught session guitarist and to rise to chief engineer at Universal,” says Boyle.

Now their mission is to find intern slots for their “graduates.” That job should be not difficult as the Chicago region is home to approximately 100-plus music companies, from one-man operations to super shops. (Source: The Chicago Creative Directory.)

Contact Boyle at 312/280-0906 or [email protected].

LA-Based Colin Costello writes for film, TV and advertising. Email him at [email protected].