Idol Wants to Get Teens Off the Street

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Ruben Studdard has a plan to get teens off the streets in Alabama and into the music industry.

The "American Idol" winner is launching The Music Alternative Project, an after-school program aimed at keeping young people away from gangs by teaching them behind-the-scenes aspects of music production, including songwriting, marketing, accounting and mixing.

"I am a product of the public school system ... and I had a lot of friends involved in gang activity," Studdard, a Birmingham native, told a statehouse panel Wednesday.

He said many of those same friends were talented singers and rappers, "but they didn't have a vehicle to push them."

The Birmingham-based program would enroll about 100 students each year from throughout the state for music courses that would be held after school, on weekends and over the summer. Those who can't regularly make it to the Audiostate 55 Recording Studios could participate through distance learning courses.

While the program was announced to the Alabama Legislature's Joint Prison Committee on Wednesday, it will not seek state funding.

Henry Panion, a music professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is director of the project.

Studdard said he will teach a few courses and participants would get a chance to see him work in the recording studio.

Since winning "American Idol," Studdard has released two albums - "Soulful," which sold 1.8 million copies, and "I Need an Angel," which hit No. 1 on Billboard's gospel charts with 436,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

He is working on a third album.

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