Housing / 2013
daKAT House: A Public Housing Project for musicians.
I am offering a scenario that impacts two of the eight suggested indicators; housing and arts/cultural vitality. In 2013, many artists cannot afford to live in the “artist district”, because the rent is so high. Please follow me as I speak as if my idea is already a reality: In downtown Los Angeles, there is a 128-unit building that is filled with musicians, and people who promote the music they generate. 22 floors of cats. The building has a house jazz orchestra, a house symphonic orchestra, and daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra. There are also dozens of offshoot groups. Every month, they give a concert that costs five bucks to see. Everyone who lives there teaches privately for ten bucks a lesson. There is a concert hall, and a café on the ground floor. The sound of tenant recitals fill the air. Every performance is recorded, filmed, and streamed around the world. In exchange for $400.00/month rent, each musician provides a ten-day/month commitment to rehearsal, performance, recitals, private lessons, and recording sessions. In the course of a year, the people who live there generated four hundred CDs worth of recorded music. House of daKAH cats. daKAT House. Like I said, this proposal follows the "Twobird/Onestone" theory of social policy. As we get deeper into the 21st century, it's getting more important to find ways to cover a coupla bases with one paycheck. We impact two indicators by providing affordable housing to a focused group of people who will enrich the musical landscape of the city. PUBLIC HOUSING PROJECT FOR MUSICIANS The first step in my idea is to partner with an existing non-profit housing organization, (or an individual who can create one), that can apply to HUD on our behalf. As a full-time musician, I am talking in vague terms about laws and regulations that I know nothing about. I am confident that someone with knowledge of this terrain will be able to navigate through the various housing programs that are available through the federal government that would support this approach to housing. At first glance, an Artist-Based public housing project could exploit a combination of Section 8 tenant status, a Section 107 Community Development Block Grant, Section 3 Economic Opportunities, Section 221 Multifamily Rental Status and Section 213 Cooperative Housing programs. The process of finding musicians to live in the building is a combination of an orchestra audition, applying for an O-1 Artist Visa and an application for Section 8 housing. We aren’t looking for rich people who want to pay cheap rent. We are looking for musicians, at any phase in their career, who need a break on the rent. In addition to financial need, each tenant must demonstrate exceptional ability on their instrument. Each tenant is also required to stay in L.A. during the term of their lease at daKAT House. Short trips are negotiable, but the purpose is to build a house orchestra, of reliable cats.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
I am applying as a composer with an idea about housing. I have no achievements in the housing sector. At this point, it’s an achievement to make my rent payment on time.
My achievements have all happened on a stage, in a classroom or in a recording studio.
As a composer/conductor, my friends and I started daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra in a nightclub in 1999. We started it with no money.
By 2001, we had made it to Grand Performances. In 2002, we made a CD, no record label. In 2004, we were onstage at Disney Concert Hall, San Francisco and in Vegas. In 2005, we were at Hollywood Bowl, South By Southwest, New Orleans during Jazzfest.
The movie “HIP HOP MAESTRO” was released in 2011. The film traces this journey from the street to symphony hall.
This is what makes me think we can pull it off. All we had to work with was sheet music, and cats in chairs, learning how to play it. After more than a decade, we’ve built a deep community of musicians in L.A.
daKAT House operates with the same philosophy as daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra, upping the stakes by providing a cheap roof over their heads.
As a musician, I’ve learned how to make something out of nothing. The times I’ve been entrusted with resources have seen success more often than failure. My strength is knowing my weakness, and finding the right people to execute the task.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
For wise counsel, I will be asking for guidance from a personal friend. He has a lot more money than I do, and knows how to navigate the non-profit sector with ease.
The most important person in this project is the non-profit housing guru. I have not identified this person yet.
The most important collaborators will be the group of musicians living in the building.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
A producer friend once said, “The tape don’t lie.”
1–Since our project has a performance and recording element, it will be as easy as looking at the iTunes playlist to see if we have been productive.
2–After a year, I expect to see a rise in attendance at our concerts. After spending some time teaching lessons, playing gigs on a consistent basis in a consistent venue, and being in the neighborhood, I would expect the people living nearby to start wandering in.
3–Over time, I would expect to see a rise in the number of musicians living in L.A. With L.A. getting press coverage as a city that supports its artists, word will most likely travel to other artists in other cities.
4–On the macro level, I would expect to see a federal HUD program that treats artists housing the same way it treats tribal housing, and provides incentives to other cities to adopt these sorts of cultural reservations of real estate for artists.
5—I would hope to see an increase in interests towards instrumental music from young people. I started playing in public school, because there was someone down the hall who could put a saxophone in my hands. It was as simple as access.
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
Fundamentally, it would provide affordable housing to a large group of people. Even better, this large group of people happen to be outstanding musicians, who will dedicate the term of their leases to creating a musical ensemble with the other tenants. And, even better than that, this group of musicians is engaged in the surrounding community, providing affordable instrumental music lessons to those who wish to learn.
Every month sees a performance of the house ensembles. These performances are recorded, and broadcast over the internet. A major factor in the promotion and exploitation of the recordings will be the fact that the musicians are living communally in subsidized housing provided through the city and federal government.
A program like this presents the city as a patron to its own artists. This type of reputation can serve as a magnet for other artists to relocate to our city, contributing to the economy of L.A.
Since the performances are affordable, the house ensembles present a way in which the working-class community can discover symphonic music in a live environment. Since tickets to the L.A. Phil can get pricey, the opportunity to see live symphonic music is limited to those who have disposable income. daKAT House provides this opportunity to those on a fixed budget.
This project provides a cadre of music teachers at a cut-rate price to those who would like to learn. The location of the Echo Park property is in close enough proximity to the VAPA Magnet High School in downtown L.A. There are also several elementary and middle schools in the area that serve a working-class community. Discounted local music lessons could provide an option that may not have been available for some of these families.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
Every council district in the city of L.A. has at least one multi-unit apartment complex reserved for musician residence. Each of these buildings have their own house ensembles. Each of the buildings has a unique flavor. Building owners recruit musicians like star ballplayers. The variety of the recordings speaks to the variety of people in L.A. There is a baseline quality of musicianship around the city.
The State of California has provided an incentive to building owners to adopt their properties to cultural reservation use. All buildings zoned for cultural reservation are tax-exempt.
Federal HUD programs now include a section called “Cultural Reservation Housing”, where property owners are given tax breaks and reimbursements in exchange for providing cheap rent to artists.
The recordings generated by daKAT House went around the world, and musicians started moving to L.A. at an unusual rate. Pretty soon, it was like Vienna 1790 on steroids. The presence of so many musicians in one place created an environment of musical excellence. You had to really be good to call yourself a musician in L.A. 2050.
After thirty years of daKAT House, there were over ten thousand CDs, and led several musical revolutions contained wherein. The musicians at daKAT House became a legendary tribe, and were revered by musicians all over the globe.