February 16, 2024

Grammy winner Babyface surprises IPS students, boosts IPS music education programs

Grammy award winner Kenneth Edmonds, best known by his stage name Babyface, speaks to an auditorium of hundreds of students at Carl Wilde School 79 on the west side of Indianapolis on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2023. - Sydney Dauphinais/WFYI

Grammy award winner Kenneth Edmonds, best known by his stage name Babyface, speaks to an auditorium of hundreds of students at Carl Wilde School 79 on the west side of Indianapolis on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2023.

Sydney Dauphinais/WFYI

The Grammy award winning songwriter and producer known as Babyface surprised hundreds of students at Carl Wilde School 79 Thursday morning.

The Indy native came to the west side elementary school to celebrate the launch of new music programs in the district and his donations, including new instruments. 

The event coincides with the upcoming overhaul at Indianapolis Public Schools. Last year the district began a controversial plan to consolidate resources and close six schools.

This summer, IPS will reconfigure its grade levels to establish K-5 elementary schools and eight 6-8 middle schools. The intent is to provide all students with the same resources and options, including music.

The new curriculum calls for all K-5 students to have access to music classes and students in grades 6-8 have the option to learn a musical instrument. Babyface’s donation, in partnership with Music Will, a nonprofit that provides instruments and training to public schools, will go toward the plan..

Traci Prescott, the fine arts coordinator for IPS, said good musical education is an important part of equitable opportunity in schools.

“We need music, we need PE, we need art, we need STEM, we need computer science,” Prescott said. “It's all one part of giving every child the opportunity to find their creative skills and know the things that they love and find interesting.”

Twenty-three music teachers in the district received Music Will training and were given a package of new instruments for the classroom. Before the donation, Prescott said there were only three teachers in the district who were trained in the Music Will curriculum.

Babyface, who was known as Kenneth Edmonds when he attended North Central High School in Washington Township during the mid-1970s, wore black sunglasses at the school. Electric guitars, amplifiers and keyboards were some of the instruments donated.

“It's very heartwarming just to see these kids and where they are at this point, and just wanting music and having this opportunity,” Babyface said after the celebration. “I can only imagine had that been myself years ago, seeing someone coming in to do that, that would have pushed me even more.”

Babyface held a brief Q&A, which was followed by a student performance of the 1985 hit “We Are The World” by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.

Babyface is the recipient of 13 Grammy Awards, including 2024 Best R&B Song for writing SZA’s “Snooze.”

Contact WFYI Marion County education reporter Sydney Dauphinais at sdauphinais@wfyi.org.

 

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