The Fresh Aid Fund; "Shadowing" the music professionals
Aside from that, Ms. Carey, who at the age of 25 has already sold more than 55 million records, was all business at a "job shadowing" event organized by the Fresh Air Fund. The children, music-minded seventh and eighth graders from all over New York City, had come to the Hit Factory on 54th Street in Manhattan to learn about the recording industry by shadowing professionals on the job.
Ms. Carey is a special friend to the fund. Last year, she donated $1 million to the fund for a career awareness camp in Fishkill, N.Y., which is now named for her. The seven youngsters are among the 2,900 economically disadvantaged New York City children who will attend Fresh Air camps this summer. Yahaira, a South Bronx resident, and several others were returning to Camp Mariah for a second year.
Ms. Carey, wearing dark glasses and black nail polish and redolent of strawberry chewing gum, ushered her young charges into a control room lined with a Star Trek-like array of sleek black gizmos, buttons and lights. First she let them grill her producer, Jermaine Dupri, a 23-year-old who produced his first record at 14 and now boasts a hit rap record, "Funkdafied", by Da Brat, and his own label, So So Def.
"What's your greatest pleasure in your job?" asked Sonseray Cummings, 13. "Seeing a group that I create from scratch grow into something that everybody knows," Mr. Dupri replied. "What's your ambition?" someone else asked. "I want to write big songs that stay around," Mr. Dupri said. "Maybe one of you all will do them over someday."
Then Ms. Carey introduced her engineer, Jay Healy, commander of the 72-track console. Mr. Healy punched a command into his computer and 72 volume controls slid up and down in a neatly choreographed dance. Mr. Healy, who broke into the business answering phones at the Hit Factory 12 years ago, added, "There are schools and colleges and programs you can go to, but there's no substitute for working on the board."
The theme, as at fund job shadowings in law offices, restaurants, hospitals and other work places, was to emphasize that in any field there are many kinds of jobs. "Kids today know about poor people and they know about doctors and lawyers and stars, but they don't know too much about the vast middle," said Jenny Morgenthau, executive director of the Fresh Air Fund. "In music, you can be the technician, the marketer, the makeup person, the receptionist."
Finally it was time to get to work. Ms. Carey led the youngsters into the recording studio, a dramatically lighted wood-paneled room the size of a school gym but with considerably better acoustics. She handed out headphones and had them sing a chorus of "Hero", one of her biggest hits and a song she said she wrote with young people in mind. Everyone knew the words. "When you feel like hope is gone," they sang, "look inside you and be strong. And you'll finally see the truth, that the hero lies in you."
After seven takes, some really loud and some just whispering, Ms. Carey invited the children back into the control room. Mr. Healy hit a switch and a 49-voice children's chorus swelled into being, rich voices filled with emotion and deft imitations of Ms. Carey's trademark swoops and glides. "I'm going to keep that one," Ms. Carey said. "I might use it someday." She had the kids record a new outgoing message on her answering machine and bade them farewell.
Back in the waiting room, everyone was raving. Aurelius Mayfield, a gangly 12-year-old choirboy from Coney Island in a Camp Mariah sweatshirt, was just about speechless. "That was so... wonderful!" he said. "She's so wonderful, she's just wonderful, and she's nice and so pretty and the way she sings is just wonderful."
Andrae Mitchell, a pint-sized aspiring talk-show host from East New York, was considerably more composed. "You know," he said, "People think artists are tired after doing all this work for everybody, and that they're so hard, but if you just sit down and talk to them one on one without the middleman, everything goes easy."
Lisa Watson, the Fresh Air Fund's career awareness director, reminded the young people that Ms. Carey had a good reason to be in such a good mood. "She was having a good time because she was in her element, doing what makes her happy," Ms. Watson said. "Everyone should pursue careers that make them happy. You should follow your heart, no matter what people tell you."
It costs $912 to send a child to Fresh Air camp. Tax-deductible contributions may be sent to the Fresh Air Fund, 1040 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10018. People wishing to volunteer for the fund's camping and career awareness programs may call (212) 221-0900.
(The New York Times)
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