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Kofi: Made In Akron Video

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Video Transcript

A lot of people ask me how did you get Kofi to play? And I'm like I didn't. He did it on his own.

My name is Kofi Boakye. I'm a senior in high school and I'm also a musician. I grew up in the projects of North Akron. We grew up in subsidized housing where it was dangerous every time you went outside. The yellow tape became a familiar scene. It was just an eerie situation to be in. But through that, my mom always told us "Hey, you know if you work hard, you can see better. You can do better." As I got older, we moved to an actual house in North Akron. It's from here that I kind of grew up and developed this musical attack. So this is the basics of everything for me.

My name is Carolyn Bland Boakye and I'm Kofi Boakye's mom. It was a challenge raising three boys. They were three boys who were very strong-willed, determined, self-motivated. And I actually had to keep up with all three of them. For example their dad saw something that was not good. I saw the good in it and it was my goal to make sure that they channeled that into something good, something productive in life. And that's what I did and it worked out. They're all successful right now.

Kofi was the entertainer of the family. He always would sing and dance. And I work nights, so I would get off third shift and come home and then Kofi would have a church set up in his room and he would call all of us into his room, so we would have to sit there and listen to his sermon. He could go three hours. One by one, we would all start to disappear out of the room, to where it would just be himself and he would still be going.

My father for the most part was, as my brother would describe it, a part-time worker that wasn't too good at his job. When he came here, it was better off that he was just not here at all. When he left, he didn't just leave he left and he told us when you guys are long gone for my life, you'll be nothing without me and you won't amount to anything and he said and you'll be homeless. And I was in fifth grade, but I knew that through music, I had to find a way to grow from this situation. To build from it.

Originally the plan was for me and my mom to learn together. I was so excited, because I was like my dream of learning the piano was you know I can still do this.

I gave it a shot and then that first class that I did it was a bunch of five-year-olds in there playing Beethoven and Mozart, and oh my gosh, I was like, whoa. I'm eight years old at the time and I couldn't believe that these kids were playing music at such a high level. I was like okay this is not for me. I told Mom, I said, "I can't do this." There was a woman there, and she said hold up the instructor. Tricia. wants to talk to you.

Miss Tricia came up to him and she took his hands in her hands and she looked at his hands and said "Kofi, I see something in you." She said just stick with me. I know these group lessons aren't working for you. So here's what we're going to do, we're going to take private lessons. By the end of the month, he was out of beginners and was into advance. So I knew it was a done deal for me, but I was just impressed at what it did for him. It like woke up something within. I don't know if you want to call it purpose, but it was just amazing and magical. So from that point, I knew I had to do everything that I could to make sure he got lessons.

My name is Tricia Hammond Thompson. I run a small music school in Akron called The Ohio Conservatory and I met Kofi first when he came to a class of mine. And then he became my piano student and musicianship student. Kofi's a remarkable kid. He struck me immediately because he pays attention in a way that most kids didn't. He was desperate for music. It's a language and it's his language and everybody needs a language.

When I went through the divorce, we were homeless for the summer. That was like the lowest time in my life and I believe it was the lowest time in his life, because he threw himself into the music. When we finally came back together into the house, you couldn't separate him from the piano.

After I was taking lessons with Miss Tricia for about four months, she presented this crazy idea to me she said "Kofi, you need to audition for Miller South." Little did I know that this school would be the school that would end up changing my life and changing the whole mold of how I view music. So I went straight from Miller South to college. And so it was from, you know, Miller South music program straight to University of Akron School of Music Jazz Program and you know being the youngest to ever be accepted into that program.

May of 2014 an SUV hit me from behind. I suffered a concussion. The sad part about that is the memory loss that came with it. And Kofi, he was his eighth grade year, he was graduating from Miller South and it just kind of messed up our role as mother and son because there were things that I couldn't remember. And he would have to help me. If I'm cooking in the kitchen, he'd have to be right there and help me cook in the kitchen because I'd forget that I was cooking. He went to Akron Early College, so a lot of people didn't know while Kofi's still doing his side things with this music, he's still coming home to help his mom. It was a rough journey with that, but through it all, he still did his music and everything and still was successful.

In my sixth grade year, I was actually raising money to go to Germany and Prague to tour with the Miller South show choir. I noticed there was a grand piano at Summit Mall and I went over there and I played. As I was playing there was a guy that ended up having an empty Starbucks cup and he put it on the piano and people started putting money in there. And so then it hit me. I said you can raise money using this piano. I would play there every week. It went from a cup to a big crayon box. People were piling money in and then, in doing that, I also met people and I met this one individual who introduced me to the whole scene of gospel music. He talked to my mom first he said, hey I love what he's doing and I think that he could easily translate into church music

My name is Jay Latimore. I'm a president and CEO of Blue Jay Studios. I met Kofi a while back from church. Someone asked me to come out and play at a church and I thought it was going to be an adult there and, at the time, I think Kofi was like 12 years old. So, the 12 year old kid comes up to the piano and I'm like "are you serious? this isn't the guy, right?" And then I hear this incredible music coming from the sanctuary and I'll go back out there this kid is just playing some of the most beautiful music you ever heard. There was a season where I was with this kid like every single day. I knew his story. I knew that his dad wasn't in his life. It was a lot of things that was going on, a lot of factors. He reminded me of myself because I didn't have anyone there for me. There's something about Kofi where he's not just your average musician, you know. We're there, but everyone's really coming to see him.

I started to find jazz music.

I actually come from learning Straight Ahead Progressive Jazz at a very young age. To hear him expound on some of that music and really show his way is very, very interesting. My name is Jeff Law AKA Chachi Lothario, I'm a singer songwriter and producer. And also I'm a drummer/body guard for Kofi.

You know, he brings a different side out of me. I mean it's more than music. I think that's the biggest thing. It's more than music for sure. And, you know, he always preaches about how musicians need to hang out with each other off their instrument. And we've done more of that. I mean, this, he's like, he's like a big brother.

When they called me, I was like really in the midst of packing everything up and I was going to sell it. And I was like "play with the kids" and then I got to the gig and figured out these aren't just any regular kids. These are like some hybrid kids that can really do it. So he's been an inspiration for me. And it's just to think back, just like a few years, like to where he is now. He would get off the ground a little bit, get off the ground a little bit, but now, oh man, he can take off.

Yeah I've been accepted into Berkeley College of Music, but I've decided that I need to defer my admission until the fall of 2019, and doing so I'm hoping to raise enough money. They gave me a scholarship, it pays for half of the tuition. But tuition really isn't the the big bonker there for Berkeley and Boston, it's the cost of living. And you know living on campus, and and from that, room and board, and different types of amenities that they have that you have to pay for. My goal is to raise that money this year, do a couple fundraisers, and then hopefully get to that point of being able to achieve that dream of going to my dream school and making something out of this whole thing that I've been doing for the past 10 years.

To have the opportunity to watch this whole thing from the beginning and watch how it just unfold. Watching all the battles you had to fight and all those different things he had to go through, and see where he's at today. it's like, I'm sorry I, I'm just I'm just proud of him. I'm proud of him.