fbpx Mixing Beats to Help Process Emotions
Authored by Nexus Family Healing on April 15, 2024

Stefan Leslie, Vocational Coordinator at Nexus-Woodbourne Family Healing, is always looking for free or low-cost programs that enhance a youth’s stay at Nexus-Woodbourne. These programs also need to work for youths who will only be in residence for a few months, not years.  

While speaking with the pastor of a local church that frequently partners with Nexus-Woodbourne, Stefan was recommended to speak with Robert Levine III, Founding Executive Director of the Beyond The Natural Foundation (BTNF) – a nonprofit organization “created to empower the lives of youth through music.” 

Mr. Levine created BTNF in October 2013 to serve at risk youth by engaging them in music education and performance to provide expressive therapy and inspiration for creating greater life opportunities. When Stefan and Robert connected, they realized they knew each other from previous work experiences, and through that reconnection Stefan was even more motivated to bring the Beyond The Natural Foundation program to Nexus-Woodbourne.  The music program was provided by a grant and the Beyond the Natural program provides everything – laptops, beat machines, all the production equipment, and a teacher who comes to campus Wednesday to Friday. 

“They were able to come in the summertime, even when school is out,” said Stefan, “and they’ve worked with youth before, and understand how to approach teaching them.” 

Beyond the Natural Foundation teaches Nexus-Woodbourne youth several different programs, from music production, composition, and even studio time. Nexus-Woodbourne staff and the music teacher found a way to create a makeshift music studio in the Nexus-Woodbourne Recreation Center; they also work towards creating and getting more equipment for the youth as funding allows.  

“It’s whatever the kids are interested in,” said Stefan, “that’s what the program is tailored to…the end result would hopefully be a production in the future.” 

Like many of Nexus-Woodbourne's enhanced program experiences, the length of time a youth participates in the residential program is often a challenge. Often, by the time the youth in residence become familiar with the music program they complete their stay at Nexus-Woodbourne. 

“When new youth enter the program, we ask them if they are interested, and then coordinate with our recreation coordinator so the kids can do it in the afternoon,” said Stefan, “most kids look forward to doing it.” 

More than Music

Besides just being something new and different for youth to try, this program has therapeutic benefits as well.  

“It’s their time,” said Stefan, “a lot of the kids do create music, beats…you can’t even talk to them while they’re doing it….it also builds a team. Kids will group together and say one kid will write a song, the other will rap on it, another sing…amongst all the personalities we see here [at Nexus-Woodbourne] we see certain kids work together and go ‘Okay. That’s different, but it’s perfect’ …they may not get along at the school or in the units, but they can come together to write a song.” 

Besides helping give kids a creative outlet, as well as helping them build mutual respect for their peers and come together as a team, the kids also get to build skills and confidence within themselves.  

“They have MacBooks, everything is top of the line,” said Stefan, “they are using what professionals use in the music industry in the real world, so they are getting that experience in skills as well.”  
The youth also adore their music teacher, Ms. Camile, who comes Wednesday to Friday with the equipment and gets everything set up for their sessions.  

“She’s worked in this field before, she knows how to relate to the kids,” said Stefan, “she pushes them and offers them support…the kids love to do it…it’s their get-away.”  

All the youth who enter Nexus-Woodbourne are welcome to come in and try the program. The teacher goes over the program and explains it to them, and the youth can decide to sign up, being encouraged to try it, even if they are on the fence.  

“Some of them come and stay, and some come because the other ones are there,” said Stefan, “so we don’t really have any issues with kids showing up…. the kids want the creative time.”  

This program has had a positive impact on Nexus-Woodbourne youth. One youth, Jacob*, who recently finished his time at Nexus-Woodbourne, participated in the BTNF program and developed a bond with a few other youths that none of them had before, learning how to read each other’s emotional cues. 

“He would say ‘I know what his trigger is, I know what his trigger is, I know if he gets to this place, I’ll pull him aside and talk to him.’…they were able to bond and get to that place together through working on music as a team. That was a different type of connection that was encouraging as we don’t always see those types of connections with our youth.”  

“That showed me that they can do it…they were able to build a relationship, when one student was maybe being disruptive, you could count on their friend to help bring them back down.” 

For the future, they are hoping to continue the program. It is an activity for the youth to do outside of their normal school and treatment and fosters a sense of community.  

Youth mixing beats

Youth in music studio


Ms. Camile with youth

Click here to learn more about the Beyond the Natural Foundation. Learn more about Nexus-Woodbourne and our services.

*Names and other details have been changed to maintain privacy.