Making music and instruments more accessible

Jun 30, 2016

Aquil Charlton plays one of his saxophones made from vinyl tubing and balloons.
Credit Patrick Fort / Aspen Public Radio

Aquil Charlton brought a shopping list with him on his flight from Chicago to Denver, including tape, vinyl tubing and some soup cans.

Charlton grew up in Chicago, where didn’t have access to music lessons. He learned to make music with his body. First he would beatbox while his friends in school rapped over him. He’d also make rhythms on his cafeteria table. But he had a question.

“What are the other ways that people can make music without having to buy an instrument or take a class?” Charlton said. “I thought about people buying materials and making their own.”

At his seminar at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Wednesday, he had attendees making bongos and saxophones out of the things on that shopping list.

Charlton runs a program in Chicago to bring music to students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access it for the same reasons he could — money and transportation.

Making these instruments are just one way to expand that vision a little bit.

“If you want to start to develop the skills of a percussionist or a horn player or something, then here’s some simple instruments that can at least get you in that direction,” said Charlton.