Category Archives: Technology

215 Feature | The GREEN Program’s Global Classroom Experience

Photo (above): GREEN Program students standing in front of Sólheimajökull ​Glacier (Iceland)​, the famous glacier from the “Chasing Ice” documentary and experiencing climate change effects first hand.
** Courtesy of Caitlin Cowan, The GREEN Program.

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“Experience is the greatest teacher.” Coming up with new ways to offer new experiences to students is an ever evolving challenge. When successful, this spawns ideas and industry to help shape our world. Rapid globalization, climate shift, growing populations, and intercultural exchanges of communication and information are defining this century. How we react to the new challenges and rising demand on our world — while we move forward with a diminishing supply — will in time define this generation.

It can be the little things that make a big difference. Scrapping the entire traditional education system is clearly overdoing it, but current methods are undoubtedly in need of improvements and change. The rising costs of obtaining degrees, with arguably lessening value to employers, is enticing students to think more outside the box to gain skills for their field and stand out from their peers. Just the same, employers seek employees who have learned skills through unique experiences. So in theory, this adds up to an opportunity for educators to get students engaged and enrolled, and for students to receive a more valuable education readying them for potential jobs. This will hopefully and so importantly assist in making a positive impact on our environment.

This belief is what drives Co-Founder and CEO Melissa Lee and her team at Philadelphia based and internationally reaching
The GREEN Program (Global Renewable Energy Education Network) — The Experiential education program for future renewable energy & sustainability leaders. Their programs are saying in essence: What better way to educate than to inspire young minds to work toward making our planet a better place, while offering a jumpstart to the newest potential members beginning a career in a difficult job market? And why not travel and have a bit of fun while doing it?

The GREEN Program ventures beyond the important lessons one learns from a textbook, developing curricula that utilize and activate in the real world. The goal is to provide exciting, supplemental, hands on, lasting and impactful learning experiences so sadly absent when only teaching/learning in the traditional classroom setting. They are currently running programs in Peru and Iceland, and are set to launch their new pilot program in Philadelphia next month, July 2015 [more info HERE].

Also, just released are 2016 Spring and Summer Break Dates
[See schedule / Apply].

We could go on, but we’ll let Lee and Brady Halligan [Director of Strategic Partnerships & Enrollment] provide their perspective. I chatted with the two at The Green Program’s current home [Pipeline Philly] about many things including: Why experiential learning is key; the newest GREEN program launching this summer in Philadelphia; and how/why they feel their initiatives will make a lasting impact for many years to come.


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Aran Hart: Talk about the main pillars and characteristics that make the GREEN program courses “The GREEN Program courses”…

Brady: As frustrated but motivated students at Rutgers we recognized several emerging signals of change. The job market is tough and super competitive for recent grads and it is extremely difficult for a grad to enter into an emerging industry like energy with lack of industry experience. HR and hiring professionals are expressing that GPA and University brand are no longer critical for landing a job. Students also needed more unique experiences outside of the University… leadership skills and industry IQ among other things.

You need global experiences. Also, analyzing the study abroad industry, we found that most of the programs offered through universities were not available for students in the STEM fields, focused on going abroad for a semester, or a full year, and lacked career focus. This way it was not only an extra cost, but students would have to choose between an important internship position and/or at times jeopardize earning credits that may not work toward graduation. Our programs are short term and run during spring/summer/winter breaks, so they don’t put students in an either/or situation.

Melissa: At 19 years old and a sophomore on campus, there wasn’t enough offered through traditional study abroad options and I was ultimately frustrated with the traditional university setting. Some of the best things I learned, I learned off campus when I was interning, working, and seeking opportunities that were going to expose a student to industry and really supplement what we were learning in the classroom.. When I founded The GREEN Program, I set out to build a platform to ignite industry exposure, interdisciplinary collaboration, and build globalized mindsets that would drive students’ passions to be better students, and ultimately better employees, leaders, and global citizens.

Brady: We focused on the different types of sustainability curricula that were coming out of universities at that time: business, engineering, policy, liberal arts, and also entrepreneurship. We knew entrepreneurship had to be a key focus for us — as it is a main drive and focus of this millennial generation.

Melissa: We took what we knew about the existing study abroad model, traditional classroom settings, and the experience students needed to get a job they were happy with… and mixed it all together. From that we ultimately created our dream study abroad program.



Why do you feel “experiential” learning is key? And how do you integrate such experiences into your programs?

Brady: The traditional universities at large, and State public universities in particular, have overcrowded classrooms with traditional lectures. You are learning all these concepts and theories but you really have to see these things first hand to drive your passion and make those connections. When you get outside of the classroom/textbook setting, you see “it” in real life; see the implications, see where the industry is going, engage with experts integrating that knowledge. It makes more sense when you return to the classroom and you’re able to thrive from your experience.

Melissa: It’s powerful to use experiential learning to really drive home key learnings to a generation like this with shortening attention spans and more distractions. It’s the way for us to inspire and/or reconnect with our passions.

That being said, you can’t replace traditional learning styles — learning from an expert through literature, tests, lectures etc… That’s still very important and cannot be completely replaced. What we know is that the experiential aspect of traditional curricula needs to be focused on now more than ever as a critical supplement to a student’s education. That’s where we fit in and shape our role in the educational sphere.


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Click to view the #onlyonthegreenprogram photo stream

Talk about the lasting impact, or resonance, that immersion and integration into communities using educational programs like yours can create. Examples…

Brady: The impact is significant to the countries and areas we go to and also to the students returning home. We started in Costa Rica with service projects, making impacts in certain developing towns such as rainwater collection systems and advocacy work to spread awareness. We were able to make changes to national building codes there. That gave us the knowledge and realization that WOW! – this program can make a global impact in the places we go.

In Iceland, where we host programs, we’ve connected with the major industries and have gained such incredible momentum that our students were invited to lunch with the President of Iceland. Our students had the opportunity to present their capstone projects — which they work on during their program. That impact… students visiting foreign country being able to present his/her project to the President is huge.

And for the President, it’s also amazing because he has student leaders from all over the world, coming into his dining room and saying, “This is what we feel will shape our world. And we think Iceland is doing a great job, I’m learning a lot by coming here.” This empowers and encourages students, gets them excited, connects them and shows them the world. They are also grasping new ideas and transforming them into something tangible that they take back into their communities and end up initiating sustainability initiatives.

Melissa: We’ve hosted incredible students with specific missions around motivations like “I need to figure out this solution for my home village in India to get them off the grid and alleviate them from poverty.” Right now we’re in Peru doing more advocacy work with a local elementary school system, creating greenhouses, and sustainable implementations. We are helping this local school attain their goal of making sure each child gets at least one meal per day. The more students we bring to work on projects like these with us, the more awareness and knowledge we help spread to the children in these communities. We’re excited to see the long term impacts on our relationships in Peru.


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Talk about the students whom The GREEN Program is attracting…

Brady: We’re excited to have people reaching out to us from all over the world. We attract student leaders and young professionals who are eager for more. We’re realizing a very diverse group of students from diverse backgrounds, and different areas of study. We have students who study engineering, mathematics, and sciences of course, but also psychology, arts, language, and culture. It’s been exciting to see like minded participants around our program who want to help break down barriers and contribute in the field of renewable energy and sustainability.

What/who was the source of your initial interest in helping to sustain a green planet?

Melissa: In 2009 I went to Costa Rica and toured a power plant. I was standing under a wind turbine having our conversation translated with the head engineer there. I connected how this, plus that, equals energy… feeding the grid, feeding this community. Such a simple concept was something that more people needed to be exposed to. I felt a sense of urgency for other students to see this concept first hand and know more about other energy options.

To many, looking at it from the outside, being green or focusing on sustainability can seem like an extreme overhaul or in some cases cost prohibitive… Give, I’m assuming a rebuttal, or opinion to such remarks…

Melissa: They’re not wrong. It can be hard to change a previous process or system, and it’s a long term commitment. But in terms of sustainability, it comes down to making a conscious decision to investment in the quality of life for a country, company, community, or person. Our programs don’t just say renewable energy is THE answer. We expose our students to both the pros, and the issues involved. Being too extreme in any one direction I think is negative. There are the extreme environmentalists — and their cause is great — but to be able to understand the balance behind that… that there needs to be financial feasibility to actually make the world run properly, is crucial. I agree and am not ignorant of the critique regarding prohibitive costs etc. One day we hope — and this is what we are working towards — there will be a financial reason for people to be able to make it work and say “Wait, it makes sense financially AND we can do something socially impactful…?” That’s when equilibrium is found.

If you start a business thinking that way, building your business model with “green/sustainable” in mind, I think you can save a lot on your bottom line by initiating that way, and avoiding the change over…

Melissa: Yes, either starting a business or providing input to existing companies can make an incredible impact with this in mind. As a consumer base we need to remember the power we hold even on an individual level. Our generation of millennials are actually turning things around and driving demand that businesses are taking note of. So many of us are acting something towards sustainability goals on our own that it builds into a force that is literally changing the frameworks of how businesses are being conducted down to the socially-responsible, eco-friendly packaging they decide to use next.

Brady: It is so important to be exposed to the right information and different perspectives when starting a business to create a culture that harnesses innovation for success. That relates back to our program and what we’re trying to provide to our students… exposure, inspiration, and providing knowledge so they can see for themselves. More and more often we have applicants coming from Texas and oil industry backgrounds saying “I want to learn how to make this industry more sustainable and efficient.” We have awesome testimonials from our kids coming back saying, “Wow, I didn’t know we could do this… I never knew we could make such a big difference.”



What makes Philadelphia the right place for the green program and why is the GREEN program right for Philadelphia?

BradyWe started at Rutgers and had momentum with an office on campus, excited as college students starting a business. When we graduated we had to figure out where we were going to go — both to live and also for the business. The culprits came up, you know, New York, San Francisco, Boston, even Boulder Colorado was on the radar.

But being from Philadelphia, I knew there is something special about my home  Philadelphia … I was aware of the exciting sustainability initiatives happening as well as a focus on entrepreneurship and technology. We really felt like we could actually thrive here, not just be in a rat race. We could make a name for ourself and at the same time not lose all the connections we had at Rutgers. We’re close to D.C. and NYC , we can get anywhere, it’s a hub that is rapidly changing and growing and we wanted to be a part of that growth.

The idea for the GREEN  program is understanding trends and how students are moving globally. We want to help put Philadelphia on the map as a great place to come and study sustainable design and urban regeneration. That’s the topic of our new program in Philly. Our thought is that if we attract enough students here (both internationally and nationally), we can showcase the great initiatives AND the issues — not shying away from the major issues that are happening here — of a major U.S. city in the midst of massive growth. We can showcase all different aspects, expose them to universities here, and hopefully they’ll come study here, and then stay.

One major problem is the brain drain. They go to New York City, they go to San Francisco, they go abroad, they go work for bigger companies. One of our major goals is that we can encourage people to stay here and give back to the community, focused around the initiatives that are already working here, already helping to put the city on the map. To say that we are going to solve poverty or reform the education system is far beyond our scope.. but hey, maybe some of our students will be able to come here and solve these issues. That would be awesome!



What are your goals for the Philadelphia initiative and where do you see both the biggest need, and most positive change taking place for this city and its community? Specifically in regards to sustainability…

Melissa: We need help with people voicing what they need in the community. So we can put them into direct contact with our students. That’s a big ask on our end because we have talent and labor, and smart engineers and architects coming who want to come and make an impact and we need to put them to work. So whether that’s community gardens, implementing green roofs, solar installations, whatever the city needs — that’s what we’re here for. We need meaningful work that our program can implement for the city.

Our students also work on capstone projects that focus on existing innovations and figuring out ways to implement this in developing communities and other countries too. We empower our students by showing them what is possible and challenge them to act on it after their program. We want to know about more of the issues our communities are facing and need help highlighting these issues. A lot of what we’re doing is focusing on some of the green works initiatives that the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability had plotted out. We hope this will help a lot of the complex issues underserved communities are facing. This is our pilot program in Philadelphia and it will be a great challenge to see what our students can do. Then we’ll get feedback and continue improving the program. Ask us that question again in August!

Talk about the partnering with universities to help build curricula you are doing and how that may hint at a changing landscape for our education system…

BradyI think we are a piece to the puzzle, of this revolution in education. We aren’t competing with universities. We are a great supplement for a specific type of student: student leaders; somebody who’s driven; somebody who wants to leave a positive impact on the world; somebody who wants to engage with other like minded students in a collaborative effort; somebody who’s unsatisfied just sitting at a desk. These are the types of students we’re seeking out and recruiting.

Universities are recognizing the importance of globalizing their campuses, pushing for more internationalization, and sending their engineers abroad to learn, for example. Schools are becoming more aware of our track record in these efforts. So instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, we are partnering with key faculty and administrators at schools to develop curriculum that embeds our program into their curriculum. We strongly feel that experiential education  abroad shouldn’t be supplemental to your education, rather it should be infused within a degree. If you’re signing up for an environmental science degree, you should be traveling outside your classroom to be immersed in a specific area that needs help with environmental science and exposes you to career options while developing your leadership capabilities.

Melissa: Students shouldn’t have to choose between taking a summer class and global industry exposure … It should be built into the university experience. Scholarships should be revolved around that, financial aid should be revolved around that. It shouldn’t be a separate entity. Philadelphia University, Bucknell, Penn State, Rutgers have all gotten involved on partnership levels, and our students are joining us from over 250 universities around the world.

It’s exciting to be able to embed our curriculum and see other Universities and intergovernmental agencies back our efforts. We’re partnered with the World Bank’s climate initiative and Institute for International Education, and have received support from many others. Those types of connections that we’re making with industry, corporations, governmental entities, nonprofits and the education sector are huge because it gives our students more opportunities than just sitting in a classroom. 

This program will only work with the collaboration of the Universities because a degree is still extremely valuable. And we are helping Universities become more appealing to students. We are here because this is something students really need, and using the world as our classroom is something that was missing from our current educational models. 



::::: Learn more about The GREEN Program :::::
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215 Feature: Ghana to Philly… STEMbees creating a buzz

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Story by Olumide Yerokun and Aran Hart. 

We can’t deny the impact that mobile technology continues to have on how the world dynamically interacts. Our society is increasingly attached to our devices, plus we’re starting to wear more of it, and undoubtedly the impact has real effects. Not only does technology keep us connected to loved ones and drive business, it advances our understanding of the world around us — For example, collecting soil moisture levels, gathering, transmitting, and analyzing critical data as we strive to make improvements to vital industries such as agriculture to help feed a fast growing international population.

As women’s history month comes to an end we remember the past, and look to the future of women’s contributions to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields. Examples like Emmy Noether and her contributions to mathematics are certainly worthy of our praise as we consider who overcame obstacles to succeed in STEM.

Now, we consider the always interesting question for each new generation: How will the young women of today take the spark made by Noether (and others) and pave new paths?


We sat down with Linda Ansong, Nana Essuman and Dr. Jamie Bracey of STEMbees. STEMbees is a non-profit based in Accra, Ghana focused on encouraging and mentoring more young African women to pursue their dreams and careers in STEM.


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Beyond STEMbees, Ms. Ansong is also Co- Founder of Vestracker AB, Dr. Bracey is Founder of Creative Tech Works Design Studio (CTW) in Philadelphia, and Mr. Essuman is the lead mentor at CTW who is now guiding the replication of CTW Design Studio in Ghana .

We discussed the upcoming City Streets Race during Philly Tech Week 2015, their experiences in STEM, influences, and the significance of striving for more involvement of women in the tech world.



Olumide Yerokun: How was STEMbees Started?

Linda Ansong: In undergrad I studied actuarial science which is very math focused. After college I found myself in an institution called Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology for two years. A majority of my classes were male dominated and I saw this as a problem. I wanted to do something that would motivate and empower more young women to venture into STEM industries. Once I was able to tell Nana about my idea he introduced me to Dr. Bracey and we went from there.


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Linda Ansong and STEMbees participants in Ghana (via Facebook)

OY: What is the goal of STEMbees and Creative Tech Works?

Nana Essuman: Both organizations have similar goals. The main focus is developing youth to build tech products that create stability and enrich their local communities. Creative Tech Works just happens to focus on youth as a whole and STEMbees focuses on young women. So through this we are able to take what Creative Tech Works has created with City Streets and work on transferring that model to Accra, Ghana. The first pilot is in December ’15, in Ghana, so we are working toward making it a great event for the youth.

OY: What is the inspiration behind the City Streets Race?

Dr. Bracey: We have a culture that likes to play games whether it is on the phone, a board game, or in real life. The goal was to figure out how to get people, specifically young people, to appreciate where they live and interact with technology at the same time.

We had the young people in the program write the code for the mobile app that will be used in the race. We then created a game around the race and we get the young people to engage with cultural icons in the city. It really stems from civil engagement where participants in the race are engaging and learning more about their city.

OY: What unique advantage do women bring to STEM industries?

Linda Ansong: Women are strong, critical, and systematic which is needed in the process of building technology. Having women on our team is the best thing that can happen because women have patience and an ability to bridge the gap in a lot of work environments.

Being outnumbered in most classes 10 to 1 gave me a unique perspective of where women can excel. It wasn’t that women couldn’t do the work it’s just that women needed to be motivated to pursue further education in STEM, past secondary school and through college.

OY: How did your culture influence you growing up?

Linda Ansong: Growing up I was the girl that wanted to know how this or that happened. I would watch Sci-Fi movies and be amazed by what was going on. I really enjoyed math and took a software development class in college that sparked my interest in tech. Both my parents are entrepreneurs which really influenced me, especially my mother. They gave me the strength to work toward my own dreams. Being from Ghana and having the ability to travel opened my eyes to a lot and gave me a new perspective on the opportunities of traveling. My mother told me I can either go travel just to shop or I can go travel learn a lot and create bigger opportunities for myself.

OY: What is the hope for women in STEM?

Dr. Bracey: The goal is for women to go from consumers to producers. To understand the value of technology, you don’t have to be an entrepreneur but at least understand the process of how the technology that you are using works. It’s developing women to be strategic and tactical at the same time.

Linda Ansong: My hope is to help young girls understand that it’s more than just understanding software or programming. I want young girls to understand that there is a large opportunity to create jobs, sustainability, and wealth for their community. It’s tough but it’s an amazing journey and experience to go from working for someone else to working for yourself. It’s powerful knowing that I’m helping show more young girls that they can do it as well.


For more information visit:

STEMbees.orgCityStreets RaceCreativeTechworks.org

City Streets: Race Through History – The 1st Youth-Designed Technology Race in Philly

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For City Streets: Philadelphia, local students will produce apps & wearable tech to race across the city during Philly Tech Week 2015.


 Tweet about race using hashtag: #CityStreetsPTW15 and #PTW15


Teams of two will wear engineered tracking devices and use a coded app to race to historic “freedom” landmarks across Philadelphia on April 25th. (exact route is a SECRET – appx 4 miles long you uncover and follow with clues like Amazing Race).

Special prizes will be awarded to the winners during the post-race celebration at Pipeline Philly, The Graham Building, 30 S 15th St, 15th floor.

1st place – Samsung Chromebook
2nd place – Kindle Fire
3rd place – Skullcandy earphones

REGISTER FOR THE RACE HERE
** 50% off Early Bird – 2-person Team – before April 15th

Details: For more information please visit: Creativetechworks.org

– Start Time: Participants MUST arrive by 8:15am sharp (Guests/Family 8:30am)

– Start Location: 15th and Cecil B. Moore Ave
(Rear of Beech Interplex Parking Lot)

City Streets™ Race Proceeds
All race proceeds will be fully tax deductible and benefit continuation of the Creative Tech Works Design Studio™ , hosted by Beech Community Services. To make donations, please send checks to CTWDS @ Beech, c/o Beech Community Services, 1510 Cecil B. Moore Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19121.



The event is endorsed by the City of Philadelphia and AT&T is a presenting sponsor

Creative Tech Works ( @CTWGroup )– founders of City Streets Race, provide students ages 14-21 with a “cognitive apprenticeship” immersion in technology and micro-engineering design teams.

Jesse Boykins III – two.one.five Exclusive

I had the distinct pleasure of chatting with Chicago born, world traveled, Brooklyn based, soul drenched performing artist Jesse Boykins III. Among other things, we covered how his experiences in life influence his artistic and musical expressions, gained some insight into how he connects with his audience in today’s ever-evolving landscape, and delved into the creative process behind his latest album release titled “Love Apparatus.”


215mag: Performing here in Philadelphia, where legends like The Delfonics, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, and into more recent history, singers like Boyz II Men and Jill Scott made their mark, do you feel you reflect these styles and their influences in your own music?

JB III: Yea definitely. The music culture to come out of Philadelphia has been consistently revolutionary as far as getting their sound heard by the masses. I grew up in the generation with Jill Scott Who Is and Boyz II Men and I was definitely inspired by the rhythm and blues period of the past. I try to infuse that day’n age, and my appreciation for that time of music and culture, and blend it with the things that I’ve seen in my own experiences, also from outside of this country.

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215mag: Do you feel all the technology and platforms allow you to connect with a wider audience, or do you feel it is harder nowadays to break through and make a unique connection?

JB III: I feel that it is both of those things. The information, accessibility, and convenience is uplifting in that moment. But I don’t feel the sense of value is as implemented in culture as it used to be. When I was in high school I got into Socrates and Greek Mythology. This was before the internet, so when I wanted to read a book about Socrates for example, I had to actually go to the library. When I did finally get to the library, and I opened up that book, my appreciation for the knowledge was so much more, because my journey to get to the library was waiting for the bus, getting to one library and they didn’t have that book, so I had to go find another library… So because of that process while getting to discover something, I’ve never forgotten that knowledge. That journey of discovering something is a lot different now. Nowadays I can just sit on my ass at home and everything will pop up in less than five minutes. I’m appreciative of the access the internet provides because a lot of people find out about me who wouldn’t. But I also want people to come to the shows and experience what they discovered, and say “let’s go to the show together” and value the experience by being there in the moment.

215mag: How do you and your band prepare for gigs, and how does your show evolve from tour stop to next tour stop?

JB III: I always communicate to my band the importance of live presentation. I always express myself to let them know that I really care, and remind everyone to stay open. We’ve been playing together for long enough now so they understand my perspective and what I’m trying to communicate when I perform. We talk about everything. What we like about the song, what we don’t like, what needs to happen at one part of the song. And of course we rehearse, which is my favorite thing to do… To sit down with the band, and talk about things while we’re playing. Right before a show, we as a band, have a conversation and I let everyone know I am appreciative of everyone there and to make sure we keep letting go that good energy, and share it with the audience.

215mag: Does your approach vary for a smaller, more intimate show, (like Heineken After Dark in NYC July 8th), compared to a bigger stage?

JB III: I feel like it is hard for me to pinpoint what I do with every show, because it just depends on where I am mentally, and what I’m feeling. But for the most part I’m so passionate every time I perform that, I just want to give, so it doesn’t really matter if it is for 10 people, or 10,000 people, I could feel the same amount of loving, and energy. It’s about who is there and what they are willing to receive from me. It’s more about connection. The music I make is for any stage, and I try to always make it feel intimate. You could listen my latest album “Love Apparatus” at home, or you could play it in the club and be like whoa! That’s what I want to do.JesseBoykinsIII_PhotoByDondreGreen_11

215mag: That was a perfect segue, so let’s talk about your latest release “Love Apparatus” … Talk about the essence, how did this project come to be?

 JB III: As far as the collaborative aspect, I met Travis (the album’s producer Travis Stewart aka MachineDrum) in 2007 through Theophilus London. All 3 of us had been working together on Theophilus’ music. We had a connection with our musical library. We would talk about a band, or an artist, and he would say “that’s one of my favorites,” and he would play a song I’d never heard for me, and I would do the same back to him. The great thing was that we started as friends, and it just so happened we lived down the street from each other in Brooklyn. For a long time we did songs for Theophilus. Soon after we finished that project, we began working on our own music. So the first song we did together was back in 2008. We realized how fun and easy it was and how we both understood how to express things and make it more interesting for us, and for the listener. We were making music we felt was progressive, and also music that people who listen to the radio could say, “all right, i get this…” while also finding that balance between consciousness, and educating people emotionally, and also making people want to dance and feel good at the same time.

215mag: And how does it reflect what was going on in your life and/or your career during its recording?

JB III: I had always been experimental in regards to making music, but I was kinda locked into doing soul music. Once I felt I’d made a good addition to Soul, I wanted to take it further. I always try to challenge myself because I feel like when you challenge yourself, that’s when you progress. So we would find a synth sample, and I would have a song title, and by the time he would finish the track, I would finish the song, and we would record it that day. So that vibe was why we worked on it so much. And while I was traveling and seeing all these things, I found myself doing a lot of soul searching, and a lot of trying to apply all of these life lessons that I had already learned and acknowledged, but I guess I was just too afraid to apply. Fear was controlling me and my songwriting. For example, in GreyScale – which is the intro to the album – I say “Blinded by the tone of you…I sense you’re frail, I need to hold on,” which basically means, “I don’t care what your complexion is, or where you’re from. It doesn’t matter, you are the same blood as me, we are of the same breath. So when you are weak, I’m going to try my best to help you.”

So when it came to saying things like that, I had never really been able to express them melodically. I wanted to put music behind it and we were able to come up with these sounds that complimented it. It was like a drug. We worked on it for 4 years, because we wanted to perfect it.

215mag: How do you navigate keeping true to your sound while embracing the newest trends / sound from today’s music?

JB III: jesse-boykins-iii-love-apparatus-lp-coverThat’s exactly what the album cover represents. One of my hands is holding a heart, another is holding the world. It symbolizes that I am an individual but I also have to keep in mind that I am connected. It’s about finding a way to find that balance between those two worlds, to kill the ego. So when I make music I don’t go into it with an ego. It’s more so about a free experience. Even when I was making soul music, there were some kinda eerie elements – like my background vocal arrangements, that weren’t typical ‘soul music.’ For people that were stuck listening to just one style of music, they didn’t realize they were actually expanding their music library. By the time I got to Love Apparatus, I was free, especially being an artist in an industry where people connect being successful with being acknowledged for something they may not be passionate about, or didn’t put time into.

I don’t really look at it like that. The music that I make and the music that I am inspired by, is for my generation. It’s never been about, “well rock music is poppin’ right now so let me get on a rock record.” It’s more about, I’m on tour in Berlin, and we go out to the club and this is the music we are dancing to. Or I’m meeting some homies from Australia and they put me on this style. And then I’m doing my research and I’m listening to some Gregorian Chant like, “Wow, that’s crazy!” It’s about my influences and the things I expose myself to, and remaining willing to let those things be a part of me, as part of my evolution. That’s how I look at my creative process.

215mag: That’s going to be the everlasting influence, rather than a hit on the pop charts…

JB III: I don’t concern myself with that type of popularity or acknowledgement. I take not being considered as being one of the greats of this era because I’m not trendy as my motivation. That’s just motivation, that’s it.

215mag: Love can be a double edged sword that involves taking risks, and our culture often portrays the negative pitfalls of love/unrequited love. Many of your songs talk about the positive potential / possibilities of love. Is that a conscious decision you make in your music?

JB III: I feel like I communicate love on all levels. When you listen to Love Apparatus, the first half is pretty fantasy based, and the second half is more reality based. My whole thing is to blend the two. When I think of love, I think of life. You get attached to things, and you let things go. That is all part of love so I put that into my music. There are songs like ‘Create beauty’ that are so fantasy driven… like “let’s have a baby.” Or there are others like “A Matter of the Heart,” or “4 Ever No More” where it’s like, we said “we were gonna be forever, but let’s be realistic… we’re not in it that hard no more… we’re not gonna be forever.” Or “Plain” – “yea we were falling in love, we were lovey dovey for the first 6 months, but shit, it’s been 2 years.. you’ve progressed in that direction, I’ve progressed in another. Obviously we’ve not stayed connected – so it’s plain.” I do understand the whole fantasy thing, but I know it’s necessary for reality to come into play and for people to be presented with their realities and their truths, so I try to present my music in that light.JesseBoykinsIII_PhotoBy_DondreGreen_10

215mag: Last two questions, quick hitters, using only a few words to respond: One of your past albums was titled “The Beauty Created.” Define creating beauty…

JB III: Living free in the moment.

215mag: Finally, tell your newest fans something about you they’re going to be pleasantly surprised by when they come see you. 

JB III: Probably will be a show they’ll never forget. Might be life changing. Might inspire them to chase their dreams.


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Heineken Green Room: Philly Tech Week ’14 Recap

As part of the 4th Annual Philly Tech Week at Sigma Sound Studios, the dynamic night featured interviews and presentations surrounding the theme of “The Future of Music & Technology” with the soundtrack provided by DJ Phsh from Illvibe Collective and DJ MICK who spun sets before in-between, and after the presentations.

Highlights included an insightful interview and audience Q&A with Kyle “KP” Reilly (Dat-Piff) by Philly Radio Station WXPN host and personality Bruce Warren, a presentation from MyChannel – the Philadelphia based content-sharing website on which users can create and share their customized channels and independently promote their brand, and an in-depth discussion hosted by media personality Quincy “Q-Deezy” Harris with Grouchy Greg from AllHipHop.com – a top internet destination for all things related to Hip-Hop culture.

Be sure to check your inbox because Heineken Green Room has a full slate of entertainment coming up this Spring and Summer.