By John Lynds
East Boston’s longstanding music and performing arts program for local youth got some much deserved recognition this year from the Improper Bostonian.
Zumix was included in the Improper Bostonian’s Boston’s Best 2017 edition under the Arts and Entertainment category.
“We were thrilled to be included in the Improper’s list of Best of Boston this year,” said Zumix Executive Director Madeleine Steczynski. “That publication is such a great and reputable resource for people all around the city who are really keyed in to what’s happening culturally, so it’s exciting to think about the award as a window into our work for folks who may not have heard of us before. We didn’t even know that we were in the running, so it was a great surprise to be included for the first time.”
Of Zumix, the Improper Bostonian wrote, “This Eastie nonprofit is housed in a former firehouse, but it’s all about stoking kids’ creative fires. ZUMIX recently celebrated 25 years of providing free and very nominally priced courses and lessons in songwriting, music technology, audio journalism, radio production and all manner of instruments to underserved youth. It also launched ZUMIX Radio (94.9 FM), an offshoot of its longtime internet streaming station that airs 40 hours of live programming each week—an achievement well worth making some noise about.”
Like a lot of good ideas, Zumix started in someone’s living room. Co-Founders Bob Grove and Steczynski founded Zumix in 1991 as a response to Boston’s worst wave of youth violence. Zumix began as a summer songwriting program with 24 youth, $200, and the simple idea that giving youth something to be passionate about could transform lives and elevate communities.
Today Zumix serves over 500 youth per year through after-school and summer programming and 500 through in-school partnerships. Over 10,000 additional adults, children, and families attend its community events and festivals.
The goal 26 years ago, said Steczynski, was to give children an alternative place to channel their focus – youth development through music and related arts.
“In 26 years our mission has remained the same”’ said Steczynski. “What has changed is the magnitude of our program. We currently work with over 1000 kids every year from our local communities. Not only do we teach them music and related activities – we offer them a safe haven; someplace where they will always feel accepted and be given encouragement. Our staff help young people develop trust, and build self-esteem, and we have seen so many great success stories from our students.”
In 2015 Zumix was granted one of two construction permits by the Federal Communications Corporation (FCC) for a Low Power FM radio station.
The station, which is shared with Winthrop Art Association, broadcasts on 94.9 FM. Its signal reaches a radius of approximately 3.5 miles from a transmission site atop East Boston High School. In addition to its new broadcast station, Zumix Radio continues to stream online at http://www.Zumix.org.
Zumix Radio is a youth and community station that serves Zumix’s mission of empowering youth to make strong positive change in their lives, their communities, and the world. Zumix radio produces and host weekly shows featuring a variety of music styles and topics such as teen life, local news, and labor rights.
Zumix Radio began in 2005 and initially broadcast on 1630 AM. When Zumix moved to the Firehouse at 260 Sumner Street in 2010, the radio station was only available online. With the new broadcast station, Zumix Radio has been reaching a broader and more diverse group of listeners.