Award-winning artist to teach hip-hop, songwriting at Summer Music Clinic

Rob Dz

He’s a hip-hop musician and spoken word artist, a Kennedy Center certified teaching artist, a workshop creator and a past recipient of the prestigious National Medal for Museum and Library Service, presented to him by Michelle Obama.

But to the middle and high school students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Summer Music Clinic, Rob Dz is first and foremost a teacher.

Rob Franklin (also known as Rob Dz) will return to the program this summer as an instructor of hip-hop performance, songwriting and modern expressions. Now in its 93rd year, Summer Music Clinic invites students in middle and high school to learn or develop skills, expand their musical horizons and share their creativity with a community of peers. Classes are taught by experienced music educators in all forms of music and creativity, ranging from band and jazz to singing and music production.

Rob, who has performed with Nas, Eminem, Common, Talib Kweli and Dead Prez, enjoys teaching his hip-hop students how the music they listen to today was shaped by songs and messages “created probably around the time that their parents were born.” Songwriting and spoken word classes, he says, can help students get in touch with their truths and unlock ways of connecting with themselves and their listeners.

“Seeing students get comfortable with the process of being uncomfortable and just finding the place of vulnerability and allowing the music to flow [is important],” he says. “The challenge that I try to get across is that there is power in truth.”

Accessing their truth helps students connect to the music in meaningful ways by learning “how to incorporate their soul searching in their playing,” Rob explains.

“Most kids in middle and high school understand the part of music where they are able to read and repeat notes,” he says. “But I think one of the more important things for kids to realize is how to put their feelings and perspective into the music to really capture the listener. As musicians, we connect with listeners through sharing our truths through instrumentation and vocalization.”

Playing to a larger audience

After last year’s successful shift to virtual programming, Summer Music Clinic (SMC) returns to the UW–Madison campus as an in-person event for 2022. The Junior Session, for students completing grades 6–8, will take place June 20–25; the Senior Session, for students completing grades 9–12, will be held June 26–July 1. A new 3-day online workshop, SMC in Focus: Music Production through STEAM, is offered separately July 26–28 for students interested in developing music technology and writing skills through a science and social justice lens. Registration for all programs is open until April 30.

Over the years, Summer Music Clinic had expanded opportunities for students of all experience levels and musical interests to participate. Whether they identify as songwriters, hip-hop artists, music enthusiasts or performers in their school or community, students can find a place of belonging, creativity and growth in the program.

Carrie Backman
Carrie Backman

“Summer Music Clinic is a magical place where students, faculty, counselors and staff from a diverse range of experiences, talents and goals come together to create and find community,” says Carrie Backman, SMC academic program manager. “Each summer we enter as new acquaintances and depart as friends and family enriched by our experiences together. We grow and learn together and work to offer equitable experiences for each student on their individual journey as artists.”

A diverse suite of classes is designed to engage students with a range of music interests and experiences — or even to try something new. Students are able to create their chosen experiences based on their interests and goals. The program also offers financial assistance and scholarships to ensure that tuition isn’t a barrier.

Free college tuition

Yes, you read that right: free college tuition. Students who are completing their junior year at a Wisconsin high school have an added incentive to attend Summer Music Clinic: the Tuition Waiver Award Program.

This program recognizes exceptional musicianship by awarding 10 students a tuition-free undergraduate college education at UW–Madison or UW–Milwaukee. Students may audition in voice or all instruments available for study at UW–Madison or UW–Milwaukee and must be a music major or double major with a music major to be eligible for this award if attending UW–Madison.

Tuition waiver applications are due June 1, 2022. The preliminary audition round takes place on June 26, and the final round is on June 29.

Registration for Summer Music Clinic is open until April 30. Full and partial scholarships are available, based on financial need. Scholarship applications are due April 10. For questions about the program, please email smc@wisc.edu or call 608-263-2242.