FLINT, Michigan -- What started out as a simple gig turned into a full-fledged mission for Flint native Pharlon Randle, who is currently celebrating 15 years of his youth-focused music program, Studio on the Go. A one-of-a-kind learning experience, Randle and his team have introduced songwriting, recording, music production, and other processes to thousands of students in Flint and surrounding areas.
Created in 2006 through Randle’s company, Bangtown Productions & Recordings, Studio on the Go
is a mobile studio program that visits classrooms to teach students how to write and record their own songs, play instruments, and operate equipment, among other skills.
Before Studio on the Go, Randle was a school bus driver in Mt. Morris as well as musician and producer. For over a decade, he spent his days transporting students and his nights producing albums for local music acts. His two worlds collided when he got a call from a friend in 2006.
“A friend of mine, Becky Lee George, asked me to come to her school and show the kids what I do with the studio stuff,” Randle said. “I packed up all my equipment and volunteered a day at Swartz Creek Alternative in 2006.”
The principal asked Randle to come back for another in-class session with the students and he was paid for his services. Soon after, another friend asked him to volunteer a day at The Kalamazoo Promise where he helped make their theme song. He conducted his first summer program that year in Kalamazoo and was eventually invited into Flint Community Schools as well.
“This was nothing I wrote down or planned on doing,” Randle said. “Once I started volunteering and doing the classes, I had no choice because the calls just started pouring in. I was just the vessel to receive the calls.”
Since then, Studio on the Go has made its rounds at over 100 schools in Flint and surrounding areas and has helped organizations such as The Boys and Girls Club and Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village develop their music program and music studio, respectively.
The mobile studio also inspired Flint artists and producers to volunteer time over the years, including Bernard Terry, Mark Taylor, Dante Dorsey, Benngiie, Aaron Paige, and Brady Gasser.
In addition to music, Studio on the Go expanded into other creative fields over the years such as graphic design, photography, and videography. Flint native James Thigpen Jr.
, owner of clothing brand Eight One Zero
, taught graphic design in the program for a year and a half, and Alexandria Green introduced students to the world of photography.
DeAndre Golden is someone who has been an integral part of Studio on the Go for the past eight years and is currently an instructor in the program.
“Studio on the Go has been a blessing to me as well as several others around me,” Golden said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with thousands of kids that share the same passion I do. I have been able to build solid relationships with my students that will last forever.”
Although the pandemic put a halt to most of his in-person sessions, Randle and his crew were able to make Studio on the Go a virtual learning experience for students in Flint, Kalamazoo, and Battle Creek.
One of the proudest moments of his career has been witnessing prior students pursue music professionally, including Flint rap artists YN Jay, Figga Da Kid, Vice Carter, and Twicee.
“I feel like I served my purpose,” Randle said. “Looking at the past 15 years and looking at the artists that have been part of the program, I feel like it worked. Look at the flowers that have come out from the seeds that were planted.”
When asked about the future of Studio on the Go, Randle replied, “It’s something that just happened and it's been going nonstop. And we're still moving. Hopefully, we can do another 15 years.”