© 2024 WEMU
Serving Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County, MI
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

creative:impact - Rod Wallace amplifies!

Production equipment for the Amplify Project.
The Amplify Project
Production equipment for the Amplify Project.

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy. In the weeks and months to come, host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, explores the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.

Creative Washtenaw CEO Deb Polich at the WEMU studio.
John Bommarito
89.1 WEMU
Creative Washtenaw CEO Deb Polich at the WEMU studio.


Rod Wallace is an educational leader with a myriad of experience in the operation, administration, and cultural development of urban schools.

Wallace is currently the Program Director for Eastern Michigan University TRiO Upward Bound, advocating for equitable postsecondary navigation for low-income, first-generation students and leveraging community resources to support current college students.

Dr. Roderick Wallace
Eastern Michigan University
Dr. Roderick Wallace

Wallace completed his Ph.D at Eastern Michigan University, studying urban education, Hip Hop as pedagogy, and the use of music technology to enrich STEM content and academic resilience.

An accomplished music producer and audio engineer, Wallace has released four solo albums, produced, performed, or mixed on dozens of other projects, and serves as the Educational Programs Coordinator for Grove Studios in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Wallace is also executive producer for Formula 734, a hip-hop documentary music and documentary series for men of color in conjunction with Washtenaw County My Brother's Keeper, and is co-founder of The Amplify Project, a 501c(3) that advocates for Black music communities and exchanges recording and production support for volunteerism to community organizations.

He resides in Farmington Hills, Michigan, with his wife, Michele, and two children.


Upward Bound at Eastern Michigan University

The Amplify Project

The Amplify Project on Facebook

Detroit Electronic Music Conference (DEMC)

DEMC on Facebook

DEMC on Instagram

DEMC on YouTube


Deb Polich: It's time for creative impact, 89 one WEMU's award-winning segment that introduces you to the Washtenaw County artists and creatives who make this our community one of the best places in Michigan for all to create, work, learn, live, play and visit. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host. You know, as is typical of so many of our Creative Washtenaw guests, Rod Wallace is unlimited by any one area of interest or expertise. He holds a Ph.D in urban education from EMU, advocates for first-generation students, is an accomplished hip hop artist, music and film producer and audio engineer. He is also the co-founder of the Amplify Project. Rod, we can't wait to hear your story. Welcome to creative:impact.

Dr. Rod Wallace: Hey Deb! It's great to be here.

Deb Polich: So many interests, Rod. So little time. Let's zone in. Are you able to pinpoint one thing--one area of interest or passion--which leads you or connects you to everything else you do?

Dr. Rod Wallace: Well, I'm from K-12. I'm, I'm a former principal and a former teacher. I still teach, and I still work with schools in terms of leadership, but I'm really interested in how students engage with music, not only creatively, but also to develop identity, to engage with their self-image, to interrogate the society that they live in, as well as to get them engaged in technology from a different perspective. Because I do believe that the production of music--the modern production of music--engages deeply with what students need in order to be successful in STEM careers. So, music. I've been given the opportunity in addition to do to what I do with Upward Bound to be able to engage deeply with what music means to students. And I get a chance to work in that every day. And I'm very happy about that.

Deb Polich: Well, so your Ph.D actually brings hip hop as pedagogy and the use of music technology into the academic area. First, was that a course of your own making? And, second, music education, at least in the States, remains entrenched in the Euro classic tradition. Some might embrace jazz, but usually, it's in classical music. Popular music, especially hip hop, isn't part of that curriculum. Are you part of a movement to change that?

Dr. Rod Wallace: I am. I am. I think the beautiful thing about the program that I was involved in with EMU at their College of Ed is that we had the opportunity to develop skills, in terms of qualitative analysis and things of that nature in the spaces that we wanted to occupy. And my cohort was able to kind of bring their own experiences as any Ph.D program should operate. They were able to bring their own experiences and be able to dig deeper into their interests. So, from the very outset of my program, I was able to study education through the lens of music and hip hop more specifically. And over time, I was able to engage more thoroughly in some specific things. I got a chance to study how hip hop producers teach themselves and how they learn using things like YouTube, how they can dig into something and learn ten things when they only wanted to learn one. I was also able to engage in how hip hop is a carrier of Black voices and how it was born out of a culture of resistance. And really, it continued the culture of resistance from things like jazz and bebop and gospel and things of that nature. So, I really had the opportunity to tell my own story. Toni Morrison says that, "If you can't find a story of your own, then you have to write your own." You know, so I've been able to do that, and I'm really happy about that.

Deb Polich: So, you've used your voice and you've helped others through the Amplify Project. What is it? And what's the mission?

"Black Music is Black History"
The Amplify Project
"Black Music is Black History"

Dr. Rod Wallace: So, the project is a nonprofit. It began with an initiative involving Grove Studios and Leon Speakers. After the death of George Floyd, we had the opportunity to think about what were some ways that we could break down some of the inequities involving access to resources for Black musicians here in Washtenaw County. So, our first step was to create a fellowship program where we were able to support the production, recording and engineering of projects by Black music artists, in exchange for community service. So, that first year, we were able to do new projects by Dani Darling, new projects by London Beck and Kenyatta Rashon. And since then, we've worked with Ki5. We've worked with Laurie and Janine. We've worked with Baddie Brooks this last year, as well as Kyle Love and the Chill Place.

Deb Polich: Quite the list!

Dr. Rod Wallace: Yeah, absolutely! And I kind of stepped into the space. I just wanted to make records. I just wanted to, kind of play a role in seeing these records be made. But what we ended up finding was there were so many needs above and beyond what our artists needed musically, which, you know, a lot of artists these days are kind of machines that are able to do a lot of things themselves.

Deb Polich: Which is always been the nature of creation anyway: doing a lot of it yourself.

Dr. Rod Wallace: Absolutely.

Deb Polich: 89 one WEMU's creative:impact continues with the multi-talented Rod Wallace, co-founder of the Amplify Project. And I want to get to the Detroit Electronic Music Conference that you are co-hosting at Washtenaw Community College on March 2nd. This may seem like a non-sequitur, but I was recently in Oxford, England, and a tour guide told our group of people from Detroit that the Morse Automotive Company in Oxford was at the center of the development of the auto industry. All of us Detroiters kind of rolled our eyes. Detroit claims to be the birthplace of electronic music. Do you find this fact to be embraced across the world?

DEMC Flyer
Detroit Electronic Music Conference
DEMC Flyer

Dr. Rod Wallace: I think that, as many things that are created in predominantly African American spaces, it could be a bit clouded. Obviously, electronic music has grown from its Detroit roots into a cultural behemoth across the world. I mean, even if you look at the electronic festival that began in Detroit several years ago, now it's turned into a much larger entity. It's funny how many fantastic techno DJs and things we have here in this space. But we bring in people from all over the world, and I think it's a beautiful thing, but it can kind of take us away from that.

Deb Polich: Is that why Washtenaw County and Detroit is the right place for this music conference?

Dr. Rod Wallace: I think so. I think our partnership is expanding: whose been doing the Detroit Electronic Music Conference for several years now. It was housed in downtown Detroit. And what they're seeking is to expand past that and not just only from a geographical standpoint, but also from a branding standpoint. Detroit is a perspective as well. So, keeping it here and growing out from its roots is something that's important to spin. And we also agree with that, and we're just interested in helping them to execute it.

Deb Polich: So, the coverage is a bit of a scholarship performance, a chance to be up close with the artists and the producers that are attending. Who's the audience? Who do you hope attends? And what do you hope they take with them?

Dr. Rod Wallace: So, primarily, we will say that it's for all ages. There are students that are in high school that are making beats every day using programs like BandLab, using programs like FL, some programs that are free. So, we want all ages. We've been engaging with some of our students around here to make sure that they participate. A form of the 734 students are interested in participating, but also engaging directly with the music producers and engineers that are in our area and giving them a space to come together and learn together and network, along with artists along with music lovers. Because, again, music is a deeply technological space at this point. So, we've invited people who are at the forefront of that work to come out. We have local experts that are going to be showing off some new innovations within the software from larger companies like Serato and Akai and things of that nature. And we'll have a panel discussion with some local music makers and some music minds that can offer some perspective about the future of music production. But we'll also have space for music producers to just create. If producers want to just come and they want to create and they want to step out and grab a bite to eat, they're more than welcome to do that as well. And we've also invited vendors from the area who we like to call "arts adjacent vendors." So, these are vendors who have services that we believe creatives could benefit from. So, it'll be a great day!

Deb Polich: Yeah, it sounds like a wonderful day. And, again, you'll be amplifying all of the things connected to the music that you're engaged with in the young people and everyone of all ages to be involved with. Thanks so much for giving us a picture, encouraging us to attend and being on the show!

Dr. Rod Wallace: Absolutely! Thank you!

Deb Polich: That's Doctor Rod Wallace. He spends his energy amplifying the impact of music. Find out more about Rod and get the details for the March 2nd Detroit Electronic Music Conference at WEMU dot org. You've been listening to creative:impact. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, and your host. Mat Hopson is our producer. Please join us every Tuesday to meet the people who make Washtenaw creative. This is 89 one WEMU Ypsilanti. Public radio from Eastern Michigan University.

If you'd like to a guest on creative:impact, email Deb Polich at deb.polich@creativewashtenaw.org.

Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support.  Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving.

Like 89.1 WEMU on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

Polich hosts the weekly segment creative:impact, which features creative people, jobs and businesses in the greater Ann Arbor area.
Related Content