The museum held its first half-day workshop on the aural arts last Tuesday, when the group Super Groupers taught 33 Farrington High School juniors the basics of hip hop lyric writing and creating beats in the Doris Duke Theatre.

“There is no wrong answer here. It’s all about you,” Navid Najafi of Super Groupers and Pacific Tongues told the students in the lyrics segment of the workshop. “When we free write, once you touch pen to pad, don’t lift your pen. Don’t worry about poetic structure or flow, just write the first thing that comes to you.” And the kids did.

The Honolulu Museum of Art’s Soundshop music education program, held in collaboration with the nonprofit Pacific Tongues, aims to inspire students to cultivate their voices to become independent, creative thinkers.

“Soundshop is a program in interactive music workshops that will be held throughout the year. They offer a safe, healthy, dynamic learning environment that provides students with opportunities to engage in a multidisciplinary understanding of music through performance, creative and description,” says Taylour Chang, Doris Duke Theatre manager. Chang, music programmer Brandon Apeles, and film curator Abbie Algar worked with Pacific Tongues’ and Super Groupers Najafi, Ohtoro, Illis It, Melvin Won Pat-Borja, and Jason Mateo to organize and design the program.

The workshop, which started at 9am with a Super Grouper performance and short Q+A, was comprised of two breakout workshops—writing and lyric study with Najafi, one of Hawai‘i’s most respected MCs, and beat-making and music language study with Scott Ohtoro, a veteran producer.

Farrington social studies teacher Ku‘ulei Reyes, signed up the students, who are all part of the high school’s three-year-old Creative Arts and Technology Academy.

Reyes credits colleague Peter Doktor, who is active in Honolulu’s slam community, with sharing news about Soundshop. “I knew it would be perfect for my students,” she says. “I’m a kumu hula, but I’m open—a good beat is a good beat, whether it’s an ipu or a drum machine. Even some of the shy kids stepped up.”

“It was a good experience to see what goes on in different parts of music,” said Austin Lilo, 17, after the debut workshop. “The format of setting up a writing scheme, going into deep thinking, helps bring back memories.”