Melody Mentors Program helps Waltham students discover their sound

Liz Sandoval sits in the recording studioPhoto/Gaelen Morse

Liz Sandoval ’25 is dedicated to creating these spaces for students at Brandeis, in Waltham, and beyond.

Growing up, Liz Sandoval ’25 found safe, creative spaces for people from marginalized communities were hard to come by. These days, she is dedicated to creating these spaces for students at Brandeis, in Waltham, and beyond. 

Sandoval is one of the first students to participate in the Samuel Scholars program, an initiative created by the Samuels Center for Community Partnerships and Civic Transformation (COMPACT).The year-long program offers first and second-year students an introduction to community engagement at Brandeis, a stipend to support their engagement, and the opportunity to implement an “action plan” for making real change in the local community.

This year, the Samuels Scholars’ action plans included research with faculty, creative arts projects, and initiatives developed in collaboration with community partners. 

“The Samuels Scholars Program aims to elevate community engagement and make it more equitably accessible,” said COMPACT Director Sara Shostak. “It’s been inspiring to work with the students in the inaugural cohort as they find their passions and pathways.  And, thanks to projects like Liz’s, the Samuels Scholars also have strengthened our connections with community partners.”

When Sandoval began brainstorming her project idea, she immediately started to connect it to her favorite community and club on campus, Basement Records. Sandoval is the current president of the club, which provides creative students with access to multimedia workshops and networking opportunities.

Sandoval determined she wanted to create a music program that connected Brandeis students with high-school students in the Waltham area, giving them a comfortable space to make music.

“I want to be someone who uplifts marginalized communities and BIPOC creatives in the music industry,” she said. “The Samuel Scholars Program has already made me feel empowered to be that change.”

Collaborating with Shostak and COMPACT associate director Megan Ross, Sandoval found a community partner that worked for her vision.

“I knew I wanted Basement Records to be a resource for creativity in the community, but didn’t know where to start,” said Sandoval. “Megan and Sara have been so helpful in connecting the dots.”

Shostak and Ross connected her with Juliet Najjumba, the founder of Africano Waltham, a community-based organization that provides supportive space and resources for African immigrant families in the Waltham area. On Saturdays, Africano Waltham hosts a Youth Enrichment Program.

After Sandoval shared her ideas with Najjumba, The Melody Mentors Program, a collaboration between Africano Waltham and Basement Records, was born.

“I wanted to provide these high school students with the resources for them to enhance their creativity while getting a sense of community at Brandeis,” said Sandoval. “With sessions happening on campus, the students also got to see what it’s like to be at a university.”

The program ran throughout April with each Saturday dedicated to making music. Two high school students were paired up with a Brandeis student to work on a music track together. The groups used digital audio workstations to produce their music.

“It was so exciting seeing how much the students enjoyed coming to campus and making music,” said Ross. “Even from the first day, the Africano Waltham students were asking their director if they could have fifteen more minutes to make music.”

The program also connected the participants with Jimmy Kang, the Vice President of Wu Tang Management. He spoke with students about their music and walked them through the recording production process.

“Every student should be given an outlet like this to further their horizons,” said Kang. “I was really inspired by the connection and mentorship that took place in this program.”

The program concluded with an on-campus celebration for students to hear their tracks played.

“This has been a dream come true for our students. We never expected them to receive this much exposure,” said Najjumba. “We can’t wait for future opportunities to connect our students to Brandeis.”

Sandoval hopes students take away a sense of community and the value of creativity.

“I know how impactful it is to have music as an outlet or form of self care when managing life,” Sandoval said. “It makes me happy knowing we’re giving them a toolkit that makes them feel supported.”

Categories: Arts, Business, General, Student Life

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