Guest Artist ‘Niles’ Teaches Hip Hop to Music Departments


Photo courtesy of TP photo studio

Local hip hop artist, Chadwick Niles Phillips, ‘Niles’ taught students in South music departments about hip hop, music and how to unlock their own creative power. He is passionate about spreading a message of positivity in the hip hop movement. “[hip hop] being multicultural, it brings everyone together, if you look all around the world, you see people from all walks of life you see people that are connected to hip hop,” he remarked.

Grace Bischoff, Staff Writer

In March, guest teacher Chadwick Niles Phillips, ‘Niles’ graced the South music department with his knowledge of hip hop and the arts. 

The classes took place in all music departments, choir, band, and orchestra. Mr. Niles instructed students about hip hop as well as how to unlock their own creativity. 

Niles is originally from Lansing, Michigan and after graduating from Michigan State University, he headed to New York to pursue big dreams of music. Niles has always been into the arts, although his passion for hip hop only emerged in high school when he realized he dreamed of making it a career. 

Before getting into teaching, Niles has had a broad array of experience in the world of music and entertainment. He first won a talent search put on by HOT 97, a hip hop radio station. From there, he was signed to Koch records. In addition, he worked as a transcriber at New York City Fashion Week, and on the set of a few films. 

He moved to the Twin Cities soon after, and opened a company called The Avant Garde. The Avant Garde put on concerts that featured local artists in the Twin Cities area. 

Many artists have inspired Niles, as a young musician and even today. The ones that really affected him were, “Hip hop artists who were bringing creativity, positivity and a message that can help uplift society. Those were the ones that I really gravitated towards, and that’s what I try to emulate now with what I do.” 

Niles has long kindled a passion for teaching youth hip hop. He started teaching in 2009, and has been teaching Minneapolis students since 2012. Niles has worked at many institutions around the Twin Cities as a guest artist, teaching young aspiring musicians and creatives. “Education has always been a big thing to me and it’s always been my way of being able to evolve, and being able to grow,” Niles remarked. 

Students in the residency at South explore many creative outlets, not only music. They are encouraged to find ways to express themselves creatively in any ways they can. Ms. Meyers, the choir teacher, talked about her hopes for the residency, “Music it’s so funny, there’s just this disconnect between the music we do at school typically (…) and the music you are consuming and interacting with in your daily life. And one of our hopes, especially with these beginning and emerging students, on their instrument and in their discipline is that they realize that what they bring is this inner world of music already.” 

Niles agrees that the creativity young artists bring to the table is vital. “They’re able to balance out delivering what they create vocally, along with delivering what they create instrumentally. So it’s adding a new component or creativity, of delivering, and of just heart to what they create. So they will be able to use that as they create as artists,” said Niles. 

Montserrat Moran, a student in concert choir commented on her experience of the classes, “I think we have learned a lot (…) [I like] when he talks to us about himself what he has done when he was little, or talks about his family.” 

As many other things have had to adapt to virtual spaces due to the pandemic, the program has shifted its gears to fit an online approach. Although there are tools to help ease the disconnect. Making music online, especially on a video meet, can be difficult. Alex Gaynor, a student in concert choir remarked on their experience, I honestly learned to do better work on this website called Soundtrap. You can make cool beats and music, and add some notes over your voice and record and it’s just really fun.” 

Being flexible with different methods of learning during a residency was also a challenge to overcome. “We’ve had to be flexible and include the guest artist. That was apparent right away, noticing that oh ok once we are there, once we are in the space together we still have to make adaptations and what’s been great is Mr. Niles has been willing to work with us and adapt,” says band teacher Mr. Knowlton.

As much as there are struggles with distance learning, there are also appeals to it. Creating can be less intimidating through online learning, and often making music is a uniting factor that brings those together in an isolated time. Ms. Butler, South’s orchestra and jazz teacher said, “Doing this altogether, is important to me right now because when we go back to in person learning will feel even more fragmented. Having this experience together especially with a community artist, something that’s novel (…) is just a nice experience for the students everyday before we feel even more fragmented.” 

Mr. Niles also has tried to grasp the silver lining, “I’ve been able to broaden where I’m teaching and I can have a class done anywhere around the world now. So it’s making a positive out of a negative,” he said.