The Rhapsody Project was co-founded in 2013 by Joe Seamons and Ben Hunter, both musicians and teachers whose experiences in the academic world left them wondering: “How can we give our students the music education that we wish we had?”
After witnessing the transmission of culture at events such as the Northwest Folklife and Pt Townsend Acoustic Blues Festivals, it was clear that there was another way of absorbing America’s musical heritage - one that was social and informal, rather than the colonial or academic models that American public schools adapted from Europe.
Because, whether we know it or not, there are powerful culture bearers living in each of our communities. Most of us just don’t know how to seek them out, or how to tap in to the cultures and lineage that these artists and community pillars represent.
Our Project has evolved over almost a decade of working with students, some of whom now serve as our interns, who helped us craft our new mission statement last year:
MISSION: The Rhapsody Project is a community that celebrates music and heritage through an anti-racist lens.
To do this, we lift up the art, stories, and work of essential culture bearers, and connect them with local youth who - due to systemic oppression - know all too little about the amazing layers of heritage that define them.
Our project serves everyone, but centers BIPOC youth, teaches them to play and sing American music, challenges them to interview their family members and mentors about the heritage they carry, and provides them tools and opportunities to enter the cultural workforce.
With programs like Rhapsody Songsters, Culture Bearer Pathways, Face the Music, and Blues in the Schools, our non-profit’s leaders connect with people all over North America - online and in person - to celebrate and tap in to the power of America’s music, and our cultural gumbo.
As we prepare to establish a headquarters in downtown Seattle at King Street Station in 2023, our co-leader Justin Golden is launching a new chapter of The Rhapsody Project in Richmond, Virginia in the summer of 2022.
Our virtual programs caused our leadership team to grow, and as Ben Hunter took a new position as Artistic Director of Northwest Folklife, Joe collaborated with a range of Black American musicians to form a new leadership team that now guides the non-profit together.
All are welcomed to take part in The Rhapsody Project. The best way to start is by joining Face the Music or Culture Bearer Pathways. These programs will help you understand the essential lessons that American music contains for celebrating life, confronting racism, and creating a world that benefits from the unique heritage that each person embodies.