By Bonnie Berger
Waco teens put pens to paper and lyrics to beats through the Mission Waco Youth Center’s music program.
Aimed at providing a creative outlet for their talents and experiences, mDub Music puts kids in the studio rapping and recording professional-grade albums.
The first such album, “The Mix Tape,” was released in December 2010 and is available for $5. A more intentional album, “Medicine,” will be released later this year for $10. Tracks addressing suicide, lamenting premature death, heartache and hope litter the album.
“At the end of the day, we want people to identify with what’s being said,” said youth director Gabe Dominguez. “We want kids to listen to this album and think, ‘If I could sing a song, that’s what I’d be singing.’”
Stevie Walker-Webb, director of the Jubilee Theatre, grew up actively involved with Mission Waco. After recently graduating from the University of North Texas, Walker-Webb returned to Waco to contribute to a program that positively impacted his life. Offering his musical talent, Walker-Webb’s soulful vocals are featured on the upcoming album.
“For me, music is a second love, rivaled only for my love of theater,” he said. “[Dominguez’s] passion for music is feverish, like my love for theater. … it’s difficult to separate the two.”
Initiated by Dominguez, mDub Music enables youth to creatively process and share experiences without turning to violence or drugs. It gives them the chance to be heard.
“The music unleashes what’s on the inside in a healthy way,” Dominguez said. “They live this stuff. It’s not just a beat.”
The Mission Waco Youth Center, a constituent of the nonprofit organization founded by Jimmy and Janet Dorrell in 1991, offers kids a safe space for a warm meal, fun, relaxation, help with homework and a chance to pursue musical passions.
Transformed from a bar, the youth center is equipped with amenities such as a 62 inch big screen TV, an exercise area, and a pool table, allowing kids to fill their time after school. The center also houses a TV/audio production room that services mDub Music.
Dominguez identifies with the teens he mentors. A Waco native, he dropped out of school and sank into drug dealing and selling firearms, which landed him in prison.
“Our music is for those who find themselves in situations where they don’t want to be,” he said. “It’s a process to get where we want to be … somehow, the lyrics give us hope that there’s people like us.”
Individuals throughout Central Texas are contributing to the budding music program’s efforts. During a visit to Mission Waco in October 2010, Christian artist David Crowder donated a 100-CD duplicator to the studio.
Also, Dominguez’s longtime friend Mike Sanchez, a musician and producer, has joined forces with mDub Music.
“I’ve seen the damage our generation caused this younger one,” Sanchez said in a recent press release. “I want us to give something back after all we’ve taken.”
Currently, the studio is operating on borrowed equipment that does not allow unlimited access.
“I don’t know how long I’ll be on this earth, but it’d be nice to know that they have their own equipment,” Dominguez said.
Aspiring musicians, producers and those with a heart for outreach are encouraged to volunteer their time.
“You start to build relationships,” said Mission Waco staff member and Woodlands junior Kristine Gear. “The kids are excited to see you. It’s fun and rewarding when you realize you’re building those relationships.”
Making an impact is not reserved for the musically gifted. Baylor students who are interested in volunteering their time and investing in the lives of Waco’s youth are encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
“Don’t be afraid to jump in,” Gear said. “If you have a willing heart, there’s a place for you.”