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Budding Beyonces Make Dreams a Reality at Library With Recording Studio

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | April 27, 2015 7:26am
 The library is throwing a “listening party” for teens Friday.
Queens Teens Record CD at Local Library
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QUEENS — I'Jyana Ballard has been singing since she was 2, and thanks to a public library program, she's debuting in a CD at age 15.

She is on her way to realizing her dream to be a singer one day, thanks to a free program at the Cambria Heights branch of the Queens Library, which has a recording studio and offers classes teaching teens how to sing, compose and record songs.

“It was something that I wanted to do because I love to sing,” said I'Jyana, who is now working on her demo at the center.

As part of the program, teens, including I'Jyana, have recently recorded their first CD, which debuted Friday.

The CD features a mix of song covers including Sam Smith's "Stay with Me," Christina Aguilera's "You are Beautiful" and Luke Bryan's "Roller Coaster" performed by teens ages 13 to 19.

It also features several gospel songs and one original tune written by I'Jyana — "This is the Teen Center" — which talks about the center, its staff and teenagers spending time together.



When the recording studio opened as part of the $1.9 million Teen Center launched at the branch last November, local teens were ecstatic.

“There was nothing in this community for them,” said Gail Smith, the teen space coordinator, adding that the studio gave them “a chance to do something different.”

The studio, one of only two such facilities in the Queens Library system, features a professional recording booth. Teens use a keyboard and drum machine to create music and later record it and mix it using professional software called Pro Tools.

Smith said that shortly after the studio opened, the branch launched several singing and recording classes.

At first, she said, some teens were shy and nervous. Others were not taking it seriously, she said.

“But once they finally saw that something is coming out of it, their attitude changed a lot,” she said. “They got a chance to be creative and express themselves.”

Since November, more than 50 teens attended music workshops at the library. 

“We've got a lot of good talent here,” said Curtis Perkins, a producer and musician, who teaches kids at the branch and who composed the music to the song written by I'Jyana.

Perkins said that after he started coaching teens last year, he realized how gifted some of them were.

"That’s why I wanted to do a CD," he said.

Ben Hogarth, 15, who sings “My Girl” on the CD, originally sung by one of his favorite bands, The Temptations, said the experience gave him “a chance to open up, to interact with everybody else and work together."

“I got a chance to show my talent,” he said with pride. 

Soraya Gustave, 17, who sings Nick Jonas' “Jealous,” said she “wasn’t comfortable singing before."

But recording the CD gave her confidence in her skills, she said.

Perkins currently works with several teens, who want to pursue a career in music on their first demos. 

"You never know," Smith said. "We might get another Beyonce."

On Friday, the library threw a “listening party” for the teens. During a red carpet event, the teens performed several songs from their CD and posed for photos.

The branch hopes to soon share copies of the CD with other libraries in the borough.

The Cambria Heights branch of the Queens Library is located at 218-13 Linden Blvd. For more information call (718) 528-3535.