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Inspiring U | Apr 29, 2024

What's New With U? April 2024

Group of students dancing in a circle on stage.

This month, we revealed our 2024 Uniquely U Scholarship cohort and caught up with Artists in Residence Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee and Grammy Award-winner DJ Kool Herc and the First Lady of Hip-Hop Cindy Campbell. Plus, we learned what Creative Writing teacher Daemond Arrindell is looking forward to during his first summer at Usdan. 

Mark your calendars for our upcoming community events in May. We hope to see U there!

We want to connect with U!

We miss you and are counting down the days until summer. In the meantime, connect with us on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and join in on the conversation! Be sure to tag us for your chance to be featured on our channels. 


Cindy Campbell (left) and DJ Kool Herc (third from left) on campus with Executive Director Lauren Brandt Schloss (second from right) and family.

50 years ago, DJ Kool Herc and Cindy Campbell created hip-hop. Now they are sowing the seeds for the next cultural phenomenon at Usdan.  

As a teenager in August 1973, Bronx-resident Cindy Campbell was eager to get some trendy new clothes for school. Her solution? Throw her own back-to-school party. $.25 for the ladies and $.50 for the fellas. She passed out index cards she handwrote herself to promote the party and lined up her brother, DJ Kool Herc, to provide the music.   

What started out as a way to get some extra cash soon became something much bigger. As more and more people started pouring into their apartment rec room, Cindy and Herc quickly realized they were creating something new, something different, and something people loved.   

“I knew at the time we were creating something special. I didn’t know what it was exactly, but I knew we were doing something no one else had done before,” shared Cindy, the First Lady of Hip-Hop, on the phone from her home in Huntington, Long Island. 

Instead of playing the disco music heard on the radio, Herc, who has since gone on to win a Grammy award and was a 2023-inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, played soul music. Music like James Brown’s "Give It Up Turn It Loose” and  Dr. John’s "Right Place, Wrong Time.” Herc responded to how the crowd was dancing during any songs’ breaks — usually the percussion interlude in a song  — and went from one break into another, so the crowd never got off the dance floor. He did this by looking at the grooves in the records themselves. These extended percussive mixes would become his signature technique: the merry-go-round technique. 

“Hip-hop is not just music, it is a culture.” A culture that has changed the course of the world. From fashion to even the Olympics,  hip-hop is embedded in our everyday lives. 

As hip-hop celebrates its 50th anniversary, Cindy and Herc are eager to share their knowledge and legacy with the next generation as Artists in Residence at Usdan this summer. As part of their residency, they will teach a minor in the 4-week A Session called “Intro to DJ Basics and the History of Hip-Hop.” During this class in Usdan’s new Composition Program, students will learn the basics of mixing, selecting, and playing music using professional DJ controllers and software. They will come away with an understanding of how songs speak to each other and how to put together a DJ mix that represents a multitude of their identities. Cindy and Herc will also teach the students the history of the five elements of hip-hop — DJing, MCing, breakdancing, graffiti, and fashion — and how these elements have all influenced culture today.    

“I know that they are going to come away with a lot," said Cindy. "We have a lot of exciting things to share with them and hopefully will make an impression on where they’re going to be in the future.” 

When asked if she thinks that there are new music genres and cultures to be created still to this day, Cindy was quick to say that, “There’s always room. There’s always room for something new. I don’t know what it is yet at the moment because when hip-hop came around they thought it was going to be just a fad, but it lasted and we’re here because of the journey that it took.” 

And there’s no better place to lay the groundwork for that next musical movement than at Usdan.  

Spots are still available for the “Intro to DJ Basics and the History of Hip-Hop.” Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn the history of hip-hop and how to DJ from the creators of hip-hop themselves! Enroll today. 

About DJ Kool Herc 
The Legendary DJ Kool Herc is consistently credited as the Founder of hip-hop. His mastery at the turntables is known worldwide, as are his positive contribution to the evolution of hip-hop culture. Herc has been profiled in countless magazines for his pivotal role in hip-hop, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and Time Magazine. In 2023, he was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and received a Special Merit Award at the Grammys earlier this year. 

About Cindy Campbell 
The “First Lady of Hip-Hop,” Cindy Campbell was the catalyst for the humble beginnings of hip-hop. Cindy continues to encourage and work together with her legendary historian brother, DJ Kool Herc. She is always scouting for the next vision of the future. Cindy holds a degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She is a former Miss Black America Beauty Pageant contestant and a licensed cosmetologist. She is also the founder of Hip-Hop Preserve Inc., a non-profit organization committed to preserving the roots of hip-hop.  


Interview by Javan Howard

Creative Writing instructor Daemond Arrindell will be teaching Creative Writing Majors and Minors in 4-Week A and 4-Week B in both Junior and Senior Divisions. Enroll today!

"If I am writing, I am doing it right." That’s what Usdan Creative Writing teacher Daemond Arrindell wants his students to internalize when they take any of his classes. A poet, performer, playwright, teaching artist, and adjunct faculty at Seattle University, Daemond is excited to spend his first summer teaching at Usdan. Director of Education Javan Howard caught up with Daemond earlier this month to learn what he is excited to bring to his students this summer.  

This is your first summer at Usdan. You will be teaching Creative Writing. What should your students know about you?  

I love when I get to learn new things. I love to laugh, and I love to see people celebrate each other. My main goal is for students to be creative, have fun, and express themselves. I want students to approach everything with a sense of wonder. Beauty is everywhere around us — in the ordinary things we take for granted.  So being an artist is not about finding something amazing to write about, it's about opening our minds and hearts to what was already amazing, we just didn't take the time to see it before. 

What are you excited to bring to your students this summer? 

I teach with a mantra I want students to internalize: "If I am writing, I am doing it right." When we enter the world, we are brilliant, creative, and full of curiosity. Art is just something fun we do to express ourselves. But unfortunately, the world eventually convinces us that we aren't writers, or dancers, or musicians because we do things differently, and we silence a part of ourself. I want students to re-learn to trust their inner voices and creativity. I want them to understand that creativity isn't about knowing an answer; it's about making a decision and persisting. 

April is National Poetry Month, and as a poet myself, I am curious how you, a fellow poet, fell in love with poetry? How did poetry find you? 

I've always loved poetry as a reader. I didn't write my first poem until my senior year of high school, when it was the shortest option for a writing project during winter break. But once I started writing, I couldn't stop. I found that I had a great deal to say. I've been hooked ever since. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. 

Daemond will be teaching Creative Writing in 4-Week A and 4-Week B in both Junior and Senior divisions. Classes are filling quickly so we encourage you to enroll your young writers today

About Daemond Arrindell 
Daemond Arrindell is a poet, performer, playwright and teaching artist. He is a faculty member of Freehold Theatre — leading poetry and theater residencies at Monroe Correctional Complex for men for over ten years; Adjunct faculty at Seattle University; and a Senior Writer-In-Residence through Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Writers in the Schools Program and Skagit River Poetry Foundation.  




Last year, we launched our Composition Program for beginner to advance students. The program gives the opportunity for young composers to bring their compositions to life by collaborating with professional musicians. Learn more about what the program meant to the inaugural class in this new video.


Discovery Playdate
Sunday, May 5
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts
Ages: K–1

Join us for a free morning of art and music activities at Usdan’s beautiful woodland campus and get a glimpse at our acclaimed Discovery Program for students currently in kindergarten or grade 1. Meet some of our Discovery teachers, participate in fun activities, and take home some Usdan swag. Light, kid-friendly refreshments will be served. 


Teacher/Alumni Performance: My True Love
Saturday, May 18
3:00 p.m.
The Players Theatre, NYC
Ages 10+

In Summer 2022, Usdan teacher and alumni Ben Boecker premiered his musical My True Love. Now it is making its Off-Broadway premiere at The Players Theatre in Manhattan, and we want to celebrate this momentous occasion with the Usdan community! Join Ben and Executive Director Lauren Brandt Schloss for this special dedicated Usdan performance. Any member of the Usdan Community — students, faculty/staff, alumni, supporters — can use the discount code USDAN35 to purchase $35 tickets to this performance. 



Earlier this month, we announced the 2024 Uniquely U Cohort. This year’s recipients of our annual scholarship program included a mix of new and returning students, all of whom share a deep passion for the arts and a great sense of curiosity. We were blown away by their creativity, and we think you will be too!

Save the Date! U Benefits 2024

July 24 & August 21
10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
All ages

Mark your calendars for a fun-filled day at Usdan celebrating our students, our community, and the transformative power of the arts. Join us during the regular camp day to engage with the art and beauty of the Usdan campus just like our students do! You are welcome to attend one or both events. Each Benefit day will run from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. — come for some, or stay for all!

Interested in sponsorship opportunities? Reach out to Director of Development, Jessica Liss Feuer, at jliss@usdan.org.