Toyi Gidioni (Toy Gi-de-uhn), BIG Student and Jefferson High School Senior, took his passion for music and became the producer of his own songs.
In 2008, Toyi, then 13, was uprooted from his home in Tanzania, Africa to Texas. It was here in Texas that his passion for creating music developed. As a member of a church choir, he learned to play the piano. “That’s how I got into music, I like the chords and the beat and all of that so I learned from the choir in Texas how to make beats.”
5 years later, Toyi and his family once again relocated, this time to Cedar Rapids Iowa. In his pursuit to continue making music, he was recommended to BIG. “From the beginning, I wasn’t trying to find BIG. I was thinking it was just a class I would take at a regular school. In Texas I asked for a music mixing class and they didn’t have it. The school here told me about BIG when I asked,” he explained. From there he met with headmaster Shawn Cornally and his project started to take shape.
“I grew up in a Christian family, so gospel is the music I’m used to.” With this in mind, Toyi began researching traditional Tanzanian gospel songs on YouTube. Though his inspiration comes from some well-known songs of Tanzania, Toyi completely creates his own music. “To make my own song, I take the traditional gospel ones that are popular. I change the rhythm, the melody, the instrumentals and the way they sing. Then I add my own words. I don’t just do the same things that the other songs do.”
How does an 18-year-old high school student create original music? “The Garage Band app on this iPad,” he says. “I’ll just get the iPad, go into a closed room, put my headphones on and start working.” His approach is not unlike that of the traditional Tanzanian artists that Toyi admires, such as Bony Mwitege. “In Tanzania, most of the artists use electronic keyboards. Some of them use guitars- bass and other kinds- but most of them just play drums and electronic keyboards.” Toyi mixes all of these instruments together in his music on a single screen.
While Toyi admits he eventually would love to be creating his music in a studio, through his project he has learned that having mobile equipment has its benefits. “Right now with the iPad I try to go to different places and record myself with the microphone to make the vocals sound rich. I can tell a big difference in how vocals sound depending on the room.” This is where Toyi’s project intersects directly with the standard curriculum: he and his mentor cover the basics of the physics of sound, reverberation, resonance, digital electronics, and music theory.
What is the advantage of Toyi’s BIG project compared to the average music class? “In the regular classes, they don’t teach the same stuff. They just go stage by stage really slowly. It’s boring sometimes. With BIG, they give you the real thing and you get to do it by yourself. I like that better,” he said. The school has allowed Toyi, and many other students, to investigate their passions in a hands-on way that is not offered in your traditional classroom.