Opening Minds with Ableton Live: Mike Huckaby at YouthVille

Not far from the headquarters of the famed label Underground Resistance, and just around the corner from the timeless Motown Museum, is one of Detroit's lesser-known treasures. Tucked away in the heart of inner-city Detroit is YouthVille, a multimillion-dollar facility run by the Detroit Youth Foundation, whose mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of youth in Detroit and its surrounding communities. In the words of Mike Huckaby, Detroit-based House and Techno legend and YouthVille instructor, "YouthVille is the most significant thing to occur in Detroit since the birth of the Detroit Electronic Music Festival."

And Huckaby should know. Highly respected in Detroit's scene, Huckaby's name is synonymous with all things DJ in Detroit. Over the last two decades, Huckaby has been performing in front of audiences all over the world and, for a good amount of that time, using Ableton Live. However, Huckaby's touring and music production with Ableton Live are just the beginning. A few years ago, Huckaby took his expertise to YouthVille to develop a one-time audio demonstration, and it didn't take long before the sparks flew.

Speaking of his first visit, Huckaby notes, "I was extremely impressed by the wealth of opportunities available at YouthVille. Right in the middle of the tour, I asked if I could start right away."

For an incredibly low annual fee of twenty-five dollars, students at YouthVille can take advantage of music production courses with Huckaby. The goals of Huckaby's music production program, however, go far beyond the simple creation of musical tracks. The overarching goal at YouthVille is to show each student that success can be achieved through discipline and perseverance, and Huckaby uses Ableton Live to demonstrate this.

"Of course I want to show each student that their musical ideas can be achieved with the help of Ableton Live. However, the real message to my kids is that the same creative values can also be applied towards non-musical activities, such as their school work--to get them to say 'Hmmm, you know what? All I have to do here is apply myself at school just as I do when using Ableton Live, and I could be just as successful.'"

And Ableton Live has turned out to be a great fit for the kids at YouthVille. Huckaby explains:

"Most students want to produce music similar to that of their favorite musicians or producers from the radio or television. They often want to start by creating a remix of their favorite songs. Live is a perfect, if not necessary, tool for doing this. So, being able to teach Ableton Live at YouthVille is a blessing. Compared to the leading DAWs on the market, Live's features are really best suited for today's young, energetic, and cutting-edge producer."

Huckaby recently established the Detroit Electronic Scholarship, a self-funded scholarship for any student serious about learning how to create music with Ableton Live at YouthVille. The scholarship pays one year's tuition at YouthVille. This deep-seated commitment to Detroit's youth has already led to some success. One student in particular who attended Huckaby's course produced a mix that was selected for a UK-based DVD project called No Go Zones. "I helped him transform his ideas into reality," Huckaby said. "It was such a remarkable feeling to be able to do this." The track was completed exclusively using Ableton Live.

Another rewarding experience for Huckaby's students was the Red Bull Music Academy's "Big Tune" showcase, held recently at YouthVille. Students we able to showcase their beats made in Ableton Live in front of real industry professionals and producers. Students received pointers and encouragement from renowned artists such as Vitamin D and Jake One. Huckaby elaborates, "The students stood by as Vitamin D and Jake One critiqued each beat. Both were equally surprised as their eyebrows were raised by the talents of each YouthVille student.