ZUMIX Summer Concerts 2021

Written by Najwa Aswad, ZUMIX Events Coordinator

After 18 months dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, life in Boston is slowly moving back to normal as schools reopen and vaccines roll out to the general population.

ZUMIX summer concerts came back this year with a vengeance, filling East Boston’s Piers Park with music all summer long. We had an amazing variety of performances this summer, but here are some highlights:

Led by ZUMIX’s own Ben and Brian Paulding, Rhythms of Ghana is ZUMIX’s African drumming ensemble. The ensembles only had a few in-person performances before their big debut—the rest were conducted virtually! The ensemble still performed at a high level, accompanied by Ghanaian singer Koblavi Douga, who is based in Vermont.

Paulding joined Kotoko Brass on stage once Rhythms of Ghana completed their performance. Douga got the crowd moving with rhythm dance moves. Kotoko Brass combines traditional African music with New Orleans jazz and energized the crowd with a thriving brass section, accompanied by eclectic traditional drums and a grooving backline.

Johanna Affelin is one of ZUMIX’s most talented singer-songwriters. She has been attending our programs since she was 7 years old! Her biggest musical inspirations are her Brazilian heritage and Nina Simone. Johanna showed her talent in singing, ukulele, and piano as she graced Piers Park with her voice, reminiscent of acclaimed singer Norah Jones. 

Dzidzor and her ensemble brought eclectic sounds full of stories and facilitated powerful meditation among the crowd. Using a loop synthesizer, Dzidzor combined world-music influences with modern synthesizer techniques to produce an enthralling soundscape. The best part was the jam at the end, when Johanna came back onstage and lent her voice (literally!) to a stellar improvisation.

The final summer concert was the perfect event to honor the Hispanic community of East Boston. ZUMIX board member and Salsa y Control dance instructor Johnny Giraldo led a short dance lesson to warm up the crowd and teach some simple moves. The lesson was his gift to ZUMIX for our 30th birthday!

Manolo Mairena y La Pura Vida could not have been a better way to end our summer concert series. La Pura Vida grooved effortlessly with keys, congas, percussion, and a drummer setting the pace. Victor Mairena, the band’s founder and lead singer, belted lyrics in Spanish while half of the neighborhood descended into the park, many of them with dance partners. East Boston residents continued dancing salsa into the evening as the sun set over the harbor and Boston’s skyline. It was truly a magical night.

Finally, a huge statement of gratitude goes to ZUMIX’s Live Sound Service team. We couldn’t do these great live concerts without them! Thank you to anyone who volunteered, donated money, or simply enjoyed these live events. We look forward to our series of summer concerts next year. 

If you have suggestions on how to improve the ZUMIX Summer Concert experience, please contact Events Coordinator Najwa Aswad at najwa.aswad@zumix.org.    

Staff Picks : February 2021

Music really does carry the soul here at ZUMIX and with that in mind we wanted to give you an update on the tracks we’ve been listening to lately. Take a look at the picks below and check out our Spotify for the track-list.

“Wildfire” by Mandolin Orange

“It warms me up and makes me feel hopeful” – Madeleine Steczynski Co-Founder and Executive Director

“Hold My Hand” by Death Valley Girls

“I love this song because it’s super upbeat, it’s super energetic and ready to dance to but also has a real hearty rock and roll sound to it” – Nikala Pieroni, Development & Communications Manager

“Wake Up Everybody” by Tobe Nwigwe

“I think it’s dope because it reminds to wake up, but it’s also a good message for other people to ‘Wake Up’!” – Corey DePina, Director of Programs

“Uuuu” by Steve Lacey

“If your feeling the love this February definitely listen to Uuuu” – Saned Diaz, Grant Writer

“Human Touch” by Bruce Springsteen

“It’s just a really good song to be in the car to. It builds in a real positive way and you know with still being in a pandemic I’m looking forward to connecting to people in real life and it makes me think of that ” – Kim Dawson, Director of Advancement

“Gravity” by Brent & Tyler the Creator

“I love the guitar loop. There’s something lethargic about it, it’s just super dope. Great for gazing out your window and watching the snow fall, sipping hot tea and reminiscing about people you can’t be around because your socially distanced. ” – Kadahj Bennett, Songwriting and Performance Manager

“TUI” by FKJ

“I listened to this the other day while gazing out the window of the commuter rail and it makes me miss playing piano because I only ever do that at ZUMIX” – Brittany Thomas, Director of Creative Media and Technology

“Drivers License” by Olivia Rodrigo

“It was on SNL this weekend and I really enjoyed seeing a bunch of people just enjoying music together and having an emotional connection together because we don’t get to see that right now” – Chrissy Holt, Director of Finance and Administration

“You Send Me” by Sam Cooke

“It’s a great old school song and it really just slows everything down. If you’re anything like me during this quarantine you just really appreciate a second to really just breathe with some music and it’s great for that” – Wilce Mascary Jr., Pathways Coordinator

“New Person, Same Old Mistakes” by Tame Impala

“It’s a jam, love the riff, some cool stuff going on and the album artwork is awesome as well. I think it’s a dope song so yea check it out” – Omar Sosa, Instrumental Music Manager

“Purple Rain Thing ft Lil Keke” by Tobe Nwigwe

“Purple rain thing was the one that got me, big shout outs to Henry and Nohemi who put me on to that. I was like ooo! It’s from Texas and I don’t know what it was but it got me” – Rene Dongo, Radio Station Manager

Find the playlist here: TBA

Staff Picks: March 2020

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This month we have 8 great tracks for you to listen to! Staff picked their favorite tracks to get through quarantine this month. While this has been a tough time of staying in doors, hopefully these sweets sounds can help pass the time.

“Strange Days” by The Doors 

The lyrics led me here Interesting vintage video added bonus -Mr. Ed Piano Instructor

“Run” by Collective Soul 

It feels really relevant right now – Kim Dawson Director of Advancement 

“Get To You Again” by Mac Ayers 

Quarantine vibes, obvi. but also the haunting melody makes a beautiful earworm. – Kadahj Bennett Instrumental Music Manager 

“Don’t Leave Me Lonely” (Acoustic Version) by Yabba and Mark Ronson

I’ve been hearing Yabba’s name for years and her vocals are dope, runs nasty and the keyboard underneath is the most comfortable bed of sound. Way better than the club version in my humble opinion. – Brandon Hardaway A. AllenAIM Voice Instructor / Voces Ensemble Director

“Abandoned City” by Jireh Calo & Daniel Volovets

Sometimes music needs no words to describe and express a story or feeling. This beautiful song written by my friend Daniel is one that does just that. We recorded it last year as part of a duo project called “The Kwarto Sessions”. – Jireh Calo Piano and Vocal Instructor

“Flowers to My Demons” by Nnamdi

I’ve known Nnamdi for awhile now, and good upcoming solo album BRAT (out this Friday) has solidified his genius as an artist. I believe this song and album are a masterpiece, and everyone should listen to it now. – Chris Lee-Rodriguez, Teaching Artist

“Cash Machine” by Hard Fi 

I’ve been a bit homesick lately and started listening to some music that was big in UK while I was wrapping up high school. Seems like rat race anthems are a surefire path to a hit for upcoming artists. I can’t help but enjoy the irony that pledging allegiance to the perennial plight for the proletariat is a passport to the bourgeoisie. Alliteration is fun too! – Ed Emerson, Creative Tech Manager 

“Berlin” by Adult Mom 

This song has beautiful imagery and a soothing repetition that makes it fantastic for these long empty days looking longingly outside your window. – Nikala Pieroni, Development and Communications Manager

“Give Me Another Chance” by Empress Of

Empress Of keeps digging into the core of what it means to be an artist, shifting styles and doing it with such energy, love this sound right now – Rene Dongo, Radio Station Manager

“Can’t Explain It ” by Chika

I like this young ladies vibe and think I she is doing what she does naturally – Corey DePina, Youth Development and Performance Manager

“Telling Me Lies” by Cilla Bonnie

Listen to it here.

This song is so moody and groovy and cool. Cilla is one of my favorite bass players in the world (I may be slightly biased). This whole EP speaks to me in a big way. – Ali McGuirk, Adventures in Music & Play It Forward Instructor

“We’re Gonna Make It” by Little Milton

I love the whole album, but the lyrics and spirit of “We’re Gonna Make It” are so uplifting. Great theme song for our current state of pandemic lock-down. – Madeleine Steczynski, Co-Founder and Executive Director

Staff Picks: February 2020

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This month we have 6 great tracks for you to listen to! Staff picked a variety of musicians from local artists like Anju to big acts like Lizzo and upcoming artists like D Smoke. Take a listen to the music choices below and enjoy!

“Black Habits” by D Smoke ft Jackie Gouché

“As a winner of the Black Excellence award from the Massachusetts State house I find it only fitting that I choose this song for my staff pick this month. D Smoke is a fresh breath of air to The Hip Hop community, enjoy” – Corey Depina , Youth Development and Performance Manager

“Good As Hell” by Lizzo

“Because it’s LIZZO and the message of this song is all about believing in yourself even when it’s hard to.” – Kim Dawson, Director of Advancement

“First Began” by PJ Morton

“PJ Morton just release The Piano Album, a live solo performance (with some back up singers) and the whole thing is great. You can watch the performance here. PJ Morton is one of my favorite new artists and I love this stripped down version of his music.” – Ali McGuirk, Adventures in Music & Play It Forward Instructor

“Right Place Wrong Time” by Dr. John

“Happy Mardi Gras! Laissez les bon temps rouler!” – Avi Salloway, Z-Tech Live Sound Coordinator

“Bittersweet” by Lianne La Havas

“It really takes me back to seeing a concert with Leon Bridges where he sang the best cover of ‘Pony’ by Ginuwine” – Brittany Thomas , Director of Creative Media and Technology

“Fill Into Me” by Anju

“Anju brings a wonderful sense of rhythm and musicality to lyrics that feel dreamy, hopeful and reflective.” – Rene Dongo, Radio Station Manager

Staff Picks : January 2020

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Welcome back to Staff Picks. Here you will find a selection of music from your very own ZUMIX staff. After careful selection and deliberation throughout the month of January we have selected these songs and given detailed reasoning as to why they are important to us all.

“Wake Up” by Lateb & Oblivious “W.O.K.E (prod by Jon Glass)”

“This song has been a mainstay in my ears since its release. A collaboration between two artists that I adore- their combined balance of intensity and soothing repetition makes this a song I want to dive straight into and swim in for a while.” – Corey Depina , Youth Development and Performance Manager

“20/20” by Oompa

“Oompa is a real gem to have making music in Boston. From rocking crowds at BAMS Fest to dropping CLEO in 2019, this track 20/20 bumps with such an energy that is infectious, hopeful and forward looking.” – Rene Dongo, Radio Station Manager

“Esperanza Spalding” by Touch in Mine

“It’s nice to witness an artist evolve in a way gracefully escapes behavioral inertia. Touch is my favorite sense.” Ed Emerson, Creative Tech Manager

“Making Breakfast” by Twin Peaks

“I accidentally ended up at a Twin Peaks concert recently, and was BLOWN AWAY by their live show. This song especially is just so filled with simple, pure, expressive joy that makes me wanna boogie!.” – Nikala Pieroni, Development & & Communications Manager

“Song of Women ” by The Hu

“They have a lot of songs, this is my favorite so far. Throat singing! I love the low pitches/harmonics and texture.” – Ed Meradith, Piano Instructor

“Pupil of the Universe ” by Pupil of the Universe

“It isn’t just this one song or this one album; it’s her whole self and everything she creates. Low Leaf lives and breathes her art; she radiates uninhibited creativity and courage to be herself.” – Jireh Calo, Voice Instructor

Take a listen on Spotify as well right here!


Hey!!!! This is Daniel, the Video Intern from ZUMIX.

Creative Filmmaking is a class where youth learn how to take their imagination and thoughts into reality, so we can develop a better sense of creativity and teamwork.

Thanks to an alliance with Windy Films, we were able to give our students the chance to work outside the building and work with professional equipment. Now we can highlight the green screen we used in our film “spel Bowuend”


“I daydream a lot, and I want to represent those thoughts into reality, what better way than filmmaking?”

This is an answer from a student from the class when we asked, “why do you like filmmaking?”

In our class, the top priority is to expand our students’ creativity and knowledge about making videos, therefore we try to have a balance of fun and learning.

Many of our students already have good filmmaking skills and products, but they feel a lack of skills to work on a team. This class is perfect for those youth, because they learn how to work together and gather everybody’s thoughts to make a film. Everybody adds their own touch and skill sets.


In the first class the priority is to teach the basics of type of plans/shots, transitions and symbolism in films — details that we often miss when we are filmmaking. We also teach how to use equipment properly so the students don’t have any inconveniences with the cameras, tripods, SD cards, and computers.

After the first classes, we brainstorm ideas for our film for the end of the semester, and start recording. This is a great method to ice break and get to know everybody in the class.


After filming, we start editing, one of the most complex parts of the class. Every student has a unique way to edit which differs from the others. We focus on learning from every student so that we can produce a film that follows a similar flow in each scene.

This was our final production, which is 100% done by the students: 

It is a comedy film in which we inspire in a spelling bee, but in this case a spelling bee with words that don’t actually exist. With a plot twist in the end, the winner is surprised with no surprise.     

Are you interested in joining our class next semester? Check it out here.

Expand your imagination and knowledge to bring it into reality! 


‘Live on the Air’ Radio Class – Fall 2019

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This fall the ‘Live on the Air’ Radio class brought together young people excited to learn how to make audio stories and craft a larger radio show.

Between running around ZUMIX making Vox Pops, a short segment composed of multiple folks answering the same question, to making a playlists and writing news stories and personal commentaries to be played on the radio; Students worked together to present to the world 2 episodes of their show “Last Minute Laughs”.

You can take a listen to both episodes of this radio show by clicking on the links below and get to hear a mixture of humor and serious topics that they made throughout the semester.

Episode 1 contains interview with ‘Fast’ Eddie Gill of ‘The Mosh Pit’ Radio show and PSA’s recorded by the class featuring the Aquarium’s Climateens.

Episode 2 contains an interview with Breannas Uncle and ZUMIX’s Chrissy Holt along with an extended joke segment!

Cover art for both episodes are compilations of everyones designs while recording the corresponding episodes, click on the photos below to see more details. Youth who graduate from the class are eligible to continue making radio by doing the Firehouse radio show in the winter season. The fall class was co-facilitated with Andrew Allen.

Staff Picks : November 2019

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Welcome back to Staff Picks. Here you will find a monthly digest of what our staff is listening to and what songs have been making everyones day and why! If you are curious you will find local music from Seraah & Miranda Rae as well as bright new folks to listen to like Koffee and August Wahh. Check it out below!

Siren 042” by Why? and Lala Lala

This song has been a mainstay in my ears since its release. A collaboration between two artists that I adore- their combined balance of intensity and soothing repetition makes this a song I want to dive straight into and swim in for a while.” – Nikala Pieroni, Development & & Communications Manager

Solomon” by Seraah

Seraah breaks down so many walls with his work, part performance art, part soul dissection, part mystery. This track rips between devastation and triumph, I’m excited that this sound bumps and the video is equally spine tingling.” – Rene Dongo, Radio Station Manager

Thinkin’ Bout You” by Miranda Rae

Miranda Rae is a Boston artist that pours her soul on every track but put a little extra soul into this one. I love being in my feelings and she helps me get there everytime.” – Wilce Mascary, Pathways Coordinator

Blue Dreams” by August Wahh

Jireh Calo, Piano and Vocal Instructor

New Love Casette” by Angel Olsen

This song is about loving as openly as possible, and feels like being in a dark lusty dream. I can’t stop listening.” – Sarah Saydun, Pathways Coordinator

Danny Nedelko” by IDLES

This band always plays with an urgent and reckless sense of pure joy. It’s a simple and powerful pro-immigration message of unity.” – Brian Paulding, Brass Instructor

Chocolate Souffle” by Oz Noy

There’s a part in the head where Oz plays behind the rest of the band (either that or I can’t figure out what polyrhythm he’s actually playing) that feels so good it summons one of the British proclivities I keep tucked away, and renders me incapable of describing it as anything other than DELIGHTFUL! =]” – Ed Emerson, Creative Tech Manager

Legend (Tribute to Usain Bolt) [2017]” by Koffee

My friend introduced me to 19 year old Koffee from Spanish Town, JA. She’s got beautiful energy, a fresh sound, is super talented, yet remains humble. I would love to see her live some day.” – Madeleine Steczynski, Co-Founder & Executive Director

Listen to the playlist on Spotify here!

Creative Media + Tech Takes Flight!

What comes to mind when you think of flight?  Maybe it’s that time there was terrible turbulence on your flight, straight out of Snakes on a Plane.  Maybe it’s the time you dreamt of becoming a stork.  This summer, our Creative Media + Tech programs made art inspired by flight.

Street Team Audio Storytelling explored interviewing, collecting ambient sound and production to create audio stories.  Take a listen to a playlist of stories inspired by rain, space, an iconic restaurant on Bennington St. and all the airplanes the carry goods across long distances:

Along with Audio Storytelling, our Creative Filmmaking and Hello, It’s Me [radio drama] programs daydreamed about flight this summer too.  The groups visited Constitution Beach in Eastie, where they took in the sights and sounds of airplanes on the Logan tarmac and the birds finding a habitat near the water.  The beach provided an environment to discuss ambient sound and capture documentary video footage.

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Creative Filmmaking took flight to a whole new level with a short drama about a stuffed animal zombie take over.  Good thing Geana was on hand with the antidote.  We’ve been grounded again, to share this work with you:

A great summer of outdoor classes and new media work came to a close with a community dinner and presentation of our youths’ creativity.  We look forward to more mixed media and crazy stories in the fall.


‘Hello, It’s Me’ Radio Class – July 2019

By Jasmine Shul

Hello It's Me 2019
Hello, It’s Me is the Zumix Radio Audio Production class where young students get to learn and experiment with audio from the writings of the story to the production of the sound.

This summer while co-facilitating the class with Rene we were able to play super fun icebreakers and expand our story writing skills. We opened up the class with a game of Where The Wind Blows and spent the week practicing our dialogue writing skills with a dialogue duo activity.

Pieces from the exercise can be found here.

“It crashes against the walls with so much power, it’s powerful more like you”

This was a line from a poem written at the beach. One of the great things we were able to do with the class was go out and venture the land of Constitution Beach. While we were there we took the time to listen to the sounds around us and use those sounds and feelings to reflect into some free writes where this wonderful line came from.



The second week of Hello, It’s Me was full of laughs and many, many trials. We began our story writing process and experimented with voice acting to help bring those stories to life. We then recorded stories and ended the class with editing and exploring sound effects and ambient noise.

Trouble was faced when the students had to put sound and story together but after some trials and tribulations editing became easier and the everybody’s finished product came out fantastic. This week we were also visited by the teens from the ICA’S Harbor Collective and the class even got to visit the ICA’S watershed and view a screening of the film “Purple”.

Graduation was breakfast-for-dinner themed where friends and family came together to eat pancakes and watch performances from Voces, the Zumix singing class and enjoy the Latin Ensemble production done by Recording Lab. Hello, It’s Me was third to present our audio dramas and the show was closed by KOMBUCHI the Rock-Ed class. The class was a nice start to the summer and for me, an amazing time. It was great to hear how different and creative everybody’s mind can be when they are given the freedom to produce whatever they want. The students were very determined to create pieces that they were proud of and gave every activity their all.  Hello, it’s me 2019 was a fun time and I would say a success!

Finished Pieces can be listened to here: