By Forward Ever Media/Game Changers

Conundrum: What does singing in a choir have to do with singing in a choir? Everything and nothing.

In Pittsburgh, the Afro American Music Institute (AAMI) has used music as an unexpected gateway to life skills and academic success for young black men.

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Founded in 1989, the organization’s blueprint is equal parts talent development, classical music training, and self-esteem boosting military-style rigor and discipline. This may be the formula that has assured its members graduate from high school. AAMI boasts a 100 percent high school graduation rate in a city where the dropout rate among black males is nearly 50%.

We sent James Robertson, our Pittsburgh-based GCP Fellow (and also a AAMI member), to listen to the “joyful noise” being made by the young men and talk with founders Dr. James T. Johnson and Pamela Johnson.

His micro-doc is an inspired work, especially amid dire circumstances for young African American males.

To learn more about James and read his blog about making the film, please visit,