Last year, it seems like Pharrell Williams’ Happy was a constant presence on the radio. People all over the world showed their happiness — and a little hometown pride — in self-created music videos. They danced down the streets of Warsaw, Berlin, Paris — and along the halls and brick pathways of the University of Richmond.
The University’s contribution to the happiness oeuvre was produced by Aaron Brown, ’16. As a writer and dancer, producing a music video had been on Brown’s college bucket list since his freshman year. In fact, that first year, he rewrote DJ Khaled’s Take It to the Head as a University anthem, titled Take It to the Edge, with the plan of releasing the track as a music video.
“I wasn’t sure if it was something that could be done, but I’ve always had this interest in being in a video,” he says. “I felt like college is where you can make certain things happen, so I thought maybe I could make this happen.”
He felt confident in his writing, rapping, and dancing, but was a bit lost when it came to filming and editing. Happy gave him the chance to test the waters. But it was student filmmaker Thomas Davant, ’16, who ultimately brought the videography and editing expertise to Take It to the Edge.
Brown also turned to SpiderBytes, campus offices, and a little word-of-mouth to bring other students to the project. Julia Picciotto provided the vocals, Tracee Carter, ’16, and Josh Young, ’17, signed on to rap, and Kylie McCormick, ’17, and Destini Teague, ’17, choreographed a dance routine. The group spent last spring filming and editing, and released Take It to the Edge just in time for summer.
“I was hoping to stimulate school spirit with both of the music videos,” Brown says. “I [wrote lyrics] about education and school spirit. I thought it would be a good way to showcase the campus, so I have shots of architecture and shots of the geese. All of these elements make the University of Richmond.”
With the music video crossed off his to-do list, Brown was looking for his next creative project. He found it with the help of a Civic Fellowship, which funded a summer internship with Dogtown Dance Theatre in Richmond’s Manchester neighborhood. He primarily wrote grant proposals on behalf of the theater and applications for community artists to use the space. But he also had a chance to bring in his creative pursuits by meeting local artists, interviewing choreographers, and teaching a hip-hop dance workshop at the theater. The internship, he says, was just the right environment to bring together his interests in writing and dance.
“All of these creative outlets allow me to express myself and they allow me to communicate to an audience,” he says. “I can talk to someone through my movements, through my body language, or through my written word instead of my spoken word. It’s all about communication and self-expression.”