Optimus’ Desir helps build AICE/AMP mentorship program

AICE and AMP’s PrePro Diversity Mentorship Program is expanding the career choices of Chicago students by helping them learn what it takes to work in companies that do post-production and music for advertising.

Matching eligible mentees with volunteer mentors, the program brings 18-to-23-year-olds in-house for hands-on learning and professional guidance in editing, audio mixing, visual effects, music scoring and related disciplines.

“It’s very similar to an internship, but not as cumbersome,” says Optimus executive producer Jon Desir, who is heading-up the program’s current expansion to Chicago from New York.

Over a three-month term, the mentors are asked to host mentees onsite for ten-to-fifteen hours each month.

Mentees and mentors from PrePro's most recent session in NYC

“Hopefully,” adds Desir, “it will lead to a longer-term engagement.”

With more than a decade of experience on some of the world’s largest brands, he believes that the Windy City will not only recognize the value of the effort, but also embrace it.

“Growing a more diverse talent base for the post production and advertising music and sound industries is needed now more than ever,” he says. “We’re confident there’s going to be tremendous support.”

Desir began his career in 2004 as an intern at the reception desk of Red Car. He was encouraged to pursue the opportunity by his brother, McGarryBowen creative director Julio Desir, who knew some of the higher ups. Now, he wants to help Chicagoans enjoy the kind of knowledge and exposure that he had.

Otherwise, he explains, they might not even know that certain opportunities exist, much less apply for them.

“Many Chicago students don’t have teachers and associates telling them about the industry,” he says. “And if they don’t see anyone who looks like them, they might be discouraged because the place may appear to be out of their comfort zone.”

The mentorship program’s first run in New York was a success. Nearly two dozen students from high schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx joined the action at BANG Music, Big Sky Edit, Blast, Bodega Studios, Butter Music & Sound, COPILOT Music + Sound, Cutters, Exile Editorial, Freefolk, Groove Guild, Heard City, Human Music and Sound Design, KYLE, Northern Lights, PS 260, The Mill and Uppercut.

J'mme Love and Jonathan Desir at Free Spirit Media's 2017 Focus CelebrationIn Chicago, Desir is working with Optimus producer Terra Zenteno to make sure that Free Spirit Media is part of the program.

Free Spirit is a nonprofit that provides media production access, education and opportunity to 700 underserved youth every year.

According to Desir, the increased diversity can help the professional volunteers as much as the students.

“My experiences in life have been enhanced by different people,” he explains. “If I dealt with only one type of person, I would have a lot less value to offer.”

Yessian Music managing director Marlene Bartos, a PrePro mentor herself, agrees.

“We can give a young person a chance to discover all the wonderful opportunities in our industry while also bringing in new and diverse talent,” she says. “It’s a win/win.”

The Diversity Mentorship Program’s Fall 2017 session begins on September 8. For more information, click here.