In Texas, if you see a marquee rapper anywhere other than blowout venues like American Airlines, Toyota, or Frank Erwin Centers, chances are Scoremore put it together. Ever since Sascha Stone Guttfreund and Claire Bogle co-founded the booking agency in 2009 as undergraduates at the University of Texas-Austin, it’s all but cornered the market when it comes to getting buzz-worthy rappers like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T., and Mac Miller to tour in non-arena Texas venues. Guttfreund and Bogle’s success has given them inches and acclaim in hallowed media spaces. The pair made Rolling Stone’s list of young innovators in the music industry and Scoremore had a profile published in the New York Times by way of Texas Monthly.
Aside from booking a handful of shows at clubs and theaters, Scoremore is also responsible for a few key Texas festivals. It co-throws, Illmore, one of SXSW’s most coveted parties; El Paso, which is often left out of the hip-hop and EDM touring circuit, has Scoremore and Splendid Sun Productions to thank for its widely attended Neon Desert Festival; and then there’s JMBLYA, a one-two-Dallas-Austin-punch that is more accurately described as an all-day endurance test for the youth.
But this year, Scoremore is giving back to kids in a different way. They’re partnering with U Got This, a Dallas-based nonprofit for the “U Got This: JMBLYA Festival Experience.” The goal is to educate kids in underserved and overlooked communities on the ins and outs of the music business, showing kids that there’s more to it than the talent on stage. “They don’t think about the hundreds of people who put on the show,” says Christian Yazdanpanah, founder and executive director of U Got This. “You don’t have to just be the rapper on stage. You can be the sound engineer. You can be all these different career paths.”
The plan is to give 150 high school students in Dallas and 100 from Austin on-site training from music industry professionals on the morning of JMBLYA (which takes place on Friday, May 13 in Dallas in Fair Park and Saturday, May 14 in Austin in the Austin American-Statesman’s parking lot). After JMBLYA, students in Dallas at James Madison High School—just two miles away from Fair Park—can apply for a chance to participate in a summer educational project that aims to give high schoolers immersive training on the ins and outs of the music business and the skeletal workings of a music festival. The plan is to get up to 50 students at James Madison to put on a music festival of their own in the fall. Granted, Scoremore and U Got This will provide oversight, but the upcoming festival will belong to the kids in the community.
“The idea is that the kids throw their own fest,” Guttfreund says. “We’ll be their safety net. If it loses a little money, it loses a little money. That’s okay. But let’s pull off an event with acts they’re excited about, and acts that they’re curating on a stage they helped put together with the lighting rigs. And make sure they know exactly how much it costs and how it got there and let them learn by hands-on experience.”
Guttfreund says even if the kids pursue careers outside of the music industry, experience throwing events can be an invaluable. “If nothing else, in 30 years whenever they get married, they’ll throw the best reception their friends have ever seen,” he jokes.
Scoremore has been involved in educational campaigns before. In 2013 the talent buyers surprised 35 DISD students with free tickets to a Kendrick Lamar show at the Verizon Theatre, and this February, in partnership with AEG Live and U Got This, students who filled out their FAFSA (a form for college financial aid) had a shot at free tickets to Kid Cudi.
Similarly, Yazdanpanah has been an advocate for Dallas’ students. Mario Aparicio, a senior at W.H. Adamson High School in Oak Cliff, previously participated in a student summit that was spearheaded by Yazdanpanah when he ran a non-profit called Support Our Students. The summit took students from five south Dallas high schools, placed them in front of DISD board members, and gave them an opportunity to voice their concerns about the quality of their education. Aparicio’s school doesn’t have enough teachers so students are forced to take lessons from substitutes. “We’re basically not grasping knowledge from the subject we’re taking,” Aparicio says. As an added incentive, the students who participated in the summit got tickets to the JMBLYA.
JMBLYA’s Dallas location seems almost symbolic. Fair Park, the large public space that’s generally only used for the State Fair, is essentially abandoned outside of its hallmark event. The harsh North and South Dallas divide in income and quality of education basically starts at Fair Park; none of the neighborhoods surrounding it have an annual median household income of over $35,000 and the lowest is below $9,000.
Hundreds of people voiced their opinions on how to revitalize Fair Park going forward at a recent city council meeting. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings proposed giving the park public investment and private management. According to NBCDFW, “Rev. Donald Parrish, a pastor at True Lee Missionary Baptist Church near Fair Park thinks the idea is great, but, “to go forward with a plan and not include a significant investment and reinvestment in this community would be a tragic mistake.” That neatly sums up the problem of gentrification: existing neighborhoods are typically an afterthought or, even worse, ignored completely.
“The community at Fair Park has been underserved and the park underutilized,” Yazdanpanah says. “I’m not a politician. I have no dog in this fight other than living down the street from Fair Park and having worked with Madison High School for the last few years and ultimately wanting to bring a solution to the problem at Fair Park in the way that it’s underutilized and engage the community with a direct solution to the Fair Park problem.”
The solution—or at least a small step toward it—could be bringing festivals like JMBLYA that will undoubtedly attract a lot of foot traffic to Fair Park. But the solution also lies in not forgetting about the community there, and giving bright students a stake in the area’s future. “Hopefully, what people will see is, they’ll look at the results of this program and how it empowers students and hopefully that will open their eyes to the fact that this is what kids love,” Guttfreund says. “They should get to participate in what they love.”