Musically Speaking

Create Now targets our arts programs on abused, neglected, abandoned, orphaned and homeless kids in the region. However, our school-based classes also reach the most disadvantaged children at Title 1 schools who receive free lunches, but no arts education. Our workshops help to prevent dropouts, poverty and violence.

The growth of literacy and math skills are the foundation for children to do well at school, socialize with others, become independent, manage money and work. But in 2015-2016, 52% of California's students failed to meet the standards in English, and 71% didn't reach the math standards.

Researchers have found that both musical ability and literacy correlate with enhanced electrical signals within the auditory brain stem, and that an awareness of beats can influence the way children assimilate speech patterns, which can affect their reading and writing abilities.

Create Now has initiated our fourth year of collaboration with Youth Policy Institute by providing our programs in East Hollywood and Pacoima through the LA Promise Neighborhood initiative, which is sponsored by the Department of Education.

Last Fall, Master Teaching Artist Beth Sussman taught 135third grade students at Ramona Elementary School in East Hollywood Musically Speaking, which is based on the steady beat. Teachers reported that 100% of Beth's students showed great improvement in cooperation and working in teams. They also improved 100% in feeling more confident to raise their hands and share in class. This is in addition to tremendous acceleration of their reading fluency and knowledge of music terminology and notation. 

Beth's current Musically Speaking workshops are teaching 125 new children how to keep a steady beat through dance, singing and fun games that focus on history, logic, reasoning, critical thinking, language arts and math - all through the lens of music. She remarked, "On the first day, it was pretty exciting that many of the new third graders had already learned the warm-up song from last year's third graders. I'm often greeted by kids with 'Che Che Kule' - a chant from Ghana." 

She's been so successful that Beth is also teaching two classes of SDC (Special Day Class) children. Their teachers are amazed at the impact that Beth's classes have on the students, especially those with very challenging behavior and learning disabilities.

Beth remarked, "I focus on steady beat (for reading fluency and comprehension), patterns and rhythm (for fractions and division), and learning and applying musical terms to connect to reading and speaking with expression. One of the SDC children, Jordy, came over to me and said 'The music has a psychic power over me.' Another SDC boy, David, loves to dance and wants to become a Zumba teacher."

Watch this short video to experience first-hand the powerful affect of Beth's program.

Incarcerated Youth Show Off Their Skills

Dorothy Kirby Center is a probation camp in Commerce with 60 teenagers who are locked up for serious crimes. All of them are dealing with mental health challenges, like depression and anger management.

Create Now brought our board member Mark Schulman (drummer for P!nk and Cher) and Latino Reggae band Pachamama Estela to perform for the youth. Then 12 of the kids got to show off their talents for all of their peers and staff. They displayed amazing skills in song, dance and poetry at our Talent Show.

Probation Supervisor Tommy Baines said, "It's important for these kids to discover their talents and to learn new ways to cope appropriately."

Deputy Probation Officer Janet Ramos remarked, "This program took them away from misbehaving and their triggers. It opened their minds up a lot. Now they want to perform in other places."

Mark Schulman explained, "These kids come from bad circumstances. They're here because they've made mistakes. They have been abused and forgotten. Yet some of these kids were really brilliant. They radiated. This program has now shifted their consciousness."

Participants received books and our unique Certificates of Completion as gifts to remind them of their successes.

Mural Workshop Helps Stop Gangs

Los Angeles is called the "Gang Capital of America." There are120,000 gang members, plus tens of thousands more in the surrounding areas around L.A. County. Gang membership has increased over the last five years. There were 16,398 violent gang crimes in the City of LA, like homicides, felony assaults, robberies and rapes. 

New Directions for Youth in North Hollywood provides intervention support for gang members who are on the fence about dropping out of their gangs, plus prevention for younger children, and re-entry programs for probation youth.

Between April and June, they hired Create Now through the Mayor's GRYD (Gang Reduction and Youth Development) initiative to implement our Create a Mural Now workshop for a number of these kids. 

The classes were taught by Master Teaching Artist Manny Velasquez and Jenny Roman-Rossington. Around 25 kids got to create designs that reflected their dreams and goals. Yadira, age 15, said, "I was like a bad girl before, but then I joined the program and it made me realize that I want to become a doctor." 

Our colorful mural fills four large walls depicting many things the kids love to do, plus their hopes for the future. Program Manager Adrian Cuentas said, "To be able to have these pictures on the walls that tell stories is very meaningful."  

Manny remarked, "For the youth participating in this mural project, it gives them work experience. They can say 'I was involved in this public art project,' which they can add to their resumés." 

As always, Create Now culminated our program with a party and gift bags for all the kids, which included backpacks, sunglasses, Certificates of Completion and other lasting souvenirs. These mementos bring pride and confidence to the youth and serve to remind them of their accomplishments as they share their experiences with families and friends.  

Check out this short video about our Create a Mural Now workshop:

Cultural Journeys

Every year, we organize cultural excursions for thousands of the most vulnerable kids in the region through our Cultural Journeys program. These include visits to Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Grammy Museum, the Hollywood Bowl, Cirque du Soleil and many other premiere venues.

For most of the children that Create Now serves, it’s their first time going to a live performance or museum. Because of the abuse and trauma they have had to endure, they’re often afraid to venture out into the world.

These troubled kids also feel self-conscious and fearful that they won’t fit in with everyone else. Yet the therapists, social workers, probation officers, teachers and other staff at the partner agencies in our network tell us that after attending our Artistic Journeys field trips, their youth are more focused and able to concentrate longer. They want to explore more of the world they live in, especially cultural opportunities.

We ask the kids to create thank you cards and letters, which teaches them to express their appreciation and to develop their creativity. At the same time, our ticket donors are able to see the impact of their contributions first-hand.

Thank you to the Circus Vargas, Cirque du Soleil, Geffen Playhouse, Grammy Museum, House of Blues, Hudson Theatre, iPalpiti Orchestra, the LA Philharmonic, Los Angeles Ballet, MUSE/IQUE, the Pasadena Playhouse, ProSearch Strategies, Road Theatre, the Skirball Cultural Center, Sold Out Crowd, Ringling Brothers Circus, Theatre West, UCLA and the Wallis Theatre for their generosity!

If you would like to donate tickets for our Cultural Journeys program, please contact Ruby Medina at (213) 747-2777 x 3 or email:

Here's a short video about how youth from different agencies in our network, like foster groups homes and Project Fatherhood, got to enjoy the premiere of "Star Wars" last December: