Voice box

BeatboxerHarvard's fourth annual beatboxing residency focuses on the unique educational expression of of an art form that speaks from and to the community.

By Gareth Anderson '19

As a musician, I am always excited to learn about types of music that are unfamiliar to me, or forms of musical expression that I’ve never experienced before. This week was no different: I had the opportunity to speak with Eva Rosenberg, arts program manager at the Harvard Ed Portal, and Martha Diaz, a Hutchins Center fellow with a deep background in the world of hip hop. They both spoke about the fourth annual Harvard beatboxing residency – a collaboration between the Office for the Arts Learning from Performers program and the Ed Portal – taking place Oct. 19-21.

As part of that residency, Rosenberg and Diaz spoke about a screening of the documentary film American Beatboxer 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20 at the Ed Portal, which regularly hosts documentary film screenings as part of the fall programming. This event,

Chesney Snow
Chesney Snow at Harvard PHOTO: Office for the Arts/Jake Belcher
which features a post-screening conversation with beatboxer Chesney Snow and producer Rich McKeown, kicks off the fall film series and “will provide a chance for Harvard affiliates to have a conversation with the film’s creators,” says Rosenberg. 

Additionally, Snow – the heart of the 2017 beatboxing residency at Harvard – will meet with undergrads during a free pizza lunch at 1 p.m. Oct. 20 at the OFA to discuss his recent run in a Broadway musical and will offer a beatboxing workshop at 3 p.m. Oct. 21 at Lowell Lecture Hall. Snow and McKeown will also hold a mini beatboxing workshop at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19 at Northeatern Crossing at Northeastern University in Boston. The screening and two workshops are free and open to the public. The workshops do not require any previous experience as a musician or beatboxer.

Diaz, whose research is focused on hip hop archiving and research, will moderate the post-screening Q&A on Friday. She has had an extensive career in the entertainment industry working for MTV, in Hollywood and as the founder of H20 Film Festival, which has become an outlet for hip hop artists to showcase their films.

Diaz is also interested in the interplay between hip hop music and education. “Hip hop education is a 21st century culture, that takes ideas outside of the classroom into the classroom,” she says. “There is a synergy between hip hop culture and learning.” The American Beatboxing event at the Ed Portal will help showcase this relationship.

Martha Diaz
Martha Diaz

When asked why hip hop – and especially beatboxing – is such an important medium for expression, Diaz says that “everybody learns differently, and through hip hop, we can discover that. You learn if you are a visual learner or a physical learner.”

Diaz also noted the cultural importance that beatbox music has for young people in communities of color. “You learn that beatboxing is a way to let your ideas out,” she says. “It is a way to communicate, a way to express yourself. You use your voice box as an instrument. It is very therapeutic.”

The event also meets the Ed Portal’s community outreach mission. “Beatboxing is a form of performance with a great sense of community,” Rosenberg says, “and that is something in line with the Harvard Ed Portal’s ideals: a sense of context, importance and of community.”