A shy teenager held the microphone tight in his hand, his St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap pulled low over his eyes. His voice cracked and he stumbled over his words as he thanked everyone for coming to the show. It was the first time the boy, Mathew Searles,16, had ever performed in front of a formal audience. The drummer kicked the drum pedal and in an instant the auditorium was awash in blue and pink lights.
They illuminated Searles as he stood in the center of the stage.
Behind him a full band complete with back-up singers swayed to the music and began to sing “Never, never, stop.”
Searles began nodding his head in time with the rhythm and started to rap the lyrics he wrote only two months earlier with the aid of professional musicians. He got the opportunity to create his song through a new collaboration between Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute and the Department of Probation in New York City.