Musician teaches teens beatboxing at Lansdowne Library

Beatboxing at Lansdown Library

The sound of hip-hop drum beats reverberated loudly throughout the Lansdowne Library on Wednesday afternoon as beatboxer and musician Max Bent taught a group of teenagers about the art of beatboxing.

"This is called beatboxing. It's an art form of singing, but singing drum sounds," Bent said to a group of 15 teenagers. "All the sounds you hear…that's called vocal production."

The sounds of a drum, for example, came from Bent's mouth — not an instrument.

The kids watched intently, tapping their feet, as Bent imitated instruments with his voice.

Bent, 34, a former Baltimore City and Prince George's County public school science teacher, led the performance and workshop for an hour.

He began with a performance then asked the kids to join in.

One of the teens grabbed the microphone and started rapping while Bent beatboxed, creating drum sounds, as other kids bobbed their heads.

Later, he began strumming a guitar to the sound of the drum beats.

"It was fun," said Lanaya Anderson, 15, a student at Lansdowne High. "I heard beat boxing and I wanted to check it out."

Younger library patrons walking by peeked their heads into the room at the back of the library to see what all the noise was and sat down to watch and listen.

Every Wednesday, from 2 to 4 p.m. the library, located at 500 Third Avenue, hosts a teen friendly activity like arts, crafts or games.

"I think they all really liked it," said Jon Kerr, one of the librarians who supervised the event, of the beatboxing presentation. "We want to show them there's more to the library than a place to find books or veg out."

Nicholas Strong, 15, a student at Lansdowne High School, was part of the audience.

"I never really heard of beatboxing before, but it was pretty cool," he said. "I might want to try it sometime."

Bent said he got into the music when he was 8.

"I pretty much trace it back to then — but it wasn't beatboxing — it was copying radio commercials with my friends," Bent said. "That's how we learned that we could imitate things that we heard with our own voice."

He kept developing the skill and in middle school discovered beatboxing "legend" Rahzel, a former member of The Roots, a hip-hop band, he said.

"I heard Rahzel on a record and it made me realize that other people did this thing…because up until I was 13 or 14, I thought it was just what I did to entertain people," Bent said. "Then I realized there was this whole tradition of beatboxing."

He continued to hone the craft, trying to make his vocal sounds more accurately depict the instruments he imitates.

When Bent left a position teaching science in 2010, he became involved with the Baltimore nonprofit Young Audiences Maryland, a group with the mission of helping children "realize their full potential through the arts," by partnering teaching artists with schools, according to its website.

Now he teaches, performs and produces music.

"A lot of people who want to get into it, don't want too much talking or instruction," Bent said.

"So beatboxing has really proven itself to be a good platform for natural organic interactions between myself and whoever I'm working with," he said.

As a music teacher, he shares that passion with his students, he said

Beyond learning basic music terminology such as beat, measure and tempo, Bent said he hopes the kids learn how to collaborate.

"It's a really good opportunity to work on collaboration skills, which I think is a real world skill," Bent.

He also hopes his students learn to be confident.

"You hit that sixth- or seventh-grade window...your voice starts cracking and you lose all your confidence," Bent said. "I work with eighth-graders and I can see them start to gain confidence."

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