On a Saturday afternoon, 15 high school students were sitting inside of a Sound and Image Media Studios classroom. After enjoying some snacks, the groups split into several areas across the SIMS department rooms to finalize their projects from the semester. These projects are part of Melody Mentors, an initiative which began in the spring of 2023. Melody Mentors is an initiative which plans to run every spring semester as part of Basement Records, a student-run organization on campus dedicated to supporting student musicians, and with support from Samuels Ceneter for Community Partnerships and Civic Transformation. The program matches high school students throughout the Waltham area with Brandeis students to support them in their musical careers. 

Liz Sandoval ’25, founder of Melody Mentors, is a current junior studying Business and Psychology with a minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation. Sandoval shared that she came up with the idea when she was in the cohort of Samuel Scholars a year ago. “The mentorship piece was inspired because growing up, I was part of the church and I saw how a lot of the older kids would mentor the younger kids on how to use the instruments and other things. We saw that every Saturday, Africano Waltham already had enrichment days, something in relation to the arts and culture, creativity — and we pitched the idea to the founder of Africano Waltham and she liked it.” 

For this spring semester, the program hosted 15 high school students from Waltham and 11 mentors from the Brandeis undergraduate community who held an interest in mentoring younger students in the music world. The Justice got to speak with students from different high schools and grade levels who each had something to say about their experience with Melody Mentors. Elizabeth Robinson, a current sophomore at Waltham High School, shared that the experience was memorable, “Working with the members in my group, having the bonding experience, and getting to meet new people.” Her group with Zyana Mugabi, a freshman from Tewksbury Memorial High School and Hannah Nambooze, a sophomore from Medford High School worked on a song called, “The Idea of Love,” a rhythm and blues song inspired by similar music from the 90s. After listening to a few parts of the song, along with their mentor, the students decided on which section of the song would become the chorus and what transition to use for one of its segments. 

Christian Momeremier, a junior at Woodburn Memorial High School, shared that the mentorship program helped him as someone with no previous experience with music. “It enlightened me musically. Now I know more about music,” he stated. Momeremier enjoyed working with the mentors, who helped the students navigate the different instruments, adding in the beat, the background instrumentals and improvising lyrics. Along with his team, Momeremier worked on a song called “Self-Love,” which he says is “like a Drake kind of song.” One notable lyric from the final product was, “Self Love is my ultimate power,” showing the different ways the Melody Mentors program allowed students to practice their passions and feel empowered through their projects. 

The Melody Mentors program also provides an empowering experience and learning opportunity for its mentors, including Ananya Dalal ’26. Dalal shared that it was their first year mentoring for Melody Mentors and they had found out about the opportunity through a friend in the program. “It’s a really cool experience because I haven’t mentored in music before. It’s cool to see how people bring in their different ideas to the table,” they stated. Menucha Krinsky ’24 shared that Sandoval had spoken about the opportunity at a COMPACT community engagement course and also had a friend as a board member which led her to join Melody Mentors. When asked about her favorite part about mentoring, Krisnky shared, “Exploring others’ musical desires and interests.” Jahkhai Waters ’26, shared that his favorite part of being a mentor was “getting to see kids happy or proud about the product” and the creative freedom in being able to suggest what they want to do with their songs. Lastly, Devyn Oh ’26  helps with lyrics, recording, and vocal editing. During their first year they worked with production, now working on sound editing. Oh hopes to come back for a third year if possible. “It’s just creative, people of very different backgrounds and experiences come together,” Oh shared about their experience mentoring. They also talked about enjoying the time crunch: “You need to have something ready by this date. It’s not always the best but it’s definitely good to have that limit.” 

At the end of the session, all five groups of students introduced themselves and presented their final products which began on March 2. Students chimed in to clap along with the song and hype up their peers’ work as they danced along to the music. Laughter filled up the room; “ooo’s” and “ayee’s” resounded after beat drops or in moments of genius. At the end of the program, mentees received copies of the songs. Sandoval is currently working with WuTang management for possible further development for the students’ work. For now, the board members of Melody Members are deciding if the songs will be shared on a platform like SoundCloud or elsewhere. 

As everyone got up to leave the room at the very end of the session, Micah Kawere, a sophomore at Innovation Academy Charter School, took a moment to share her appreciation for the program: “On behalf of all of us (Africano Waltham), we want to thank you for everything. From the bottom of our hearts. I loved every single moment, it was amazing.” The students also presented the board members of the mentorship program with a handmade poster, which had notes of appreciation and praise for the program. One note read, “Dear Brandeis team, thank you for this benevolent opportunity you’ve given to me. Thanks to you, I was able to explore my talents in music production,” signed by a student named Lisa. 

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APPRECIATION: Africano Waltham showed their thanks to the Melody Mentors.