In January, April Carr (a.k.a. DJ Apryl Reign) took over as director of programming and evaluation at Elementz Hip Hop Cultural Art Center. Carr has worked in some capacity with the Over-the-Rhine nonprofit for nearly 20 years, and she’s currently pursuing a graduate degree in mental health counseling while expanding the scope of its Creative Futures program. She discusses her plans to increase Elementz’s outreach and impact.
How did you get the new role at Elementz?
After 10-plus years serving as the creative arts director, Abdullah Powell decided to explore other artistic teaching pursuits within the organization and spend more time with his family. My longevity with the organization helped guide him and our managing director, Tom Kent, to approach me as the successor. I’m pursuing a graduate degree at UC. Although my career path is slightly altered by accepting this position, the material I’m learning on career counseling is proving be very valuable in contributing to our Creative Futures program, which helps Elementz members pursue careers in creative arts.
How are things different for you now that you’re in charge?
The big difference is more meetings! No, just kidding. Having people consult with me more and report to me is a first and is definitely an adjustment. Moving from three hours a week to 40-plus hours was jarring.
What made you want to take on this new position?
Because of my graduate studies, I wasn’t sure how I could even accept this position. But I decided to do it because of the potential impact I could directly have on the community. My 17 years of experience as a research coordinator fueled my desire to implement new processes evaluating the impact of programming. I’m still able to teach, DJ, and create music on the job, which is amazing. I am immensely grateful for that.
Are there any new programs/projects you’re working on for Elementz this year?
Creative Futures has existed for about six years. With our new partnership with the college and career prep program NaviGo, however, we’re looking to customize its structure to fit the career pursuits of Elementz members.
How are you juggling this new role with teaching DJ classes?
It’s tough, but I really enjoy teaching and look forward to it every week. I did have to move my classes to Saturdays so I can complete my internship for graduate school. I’m juggling family, school, a full-time job, and an internship. It’s a lot.
Does the new position mean you’re retiring from DJing gigs around town entirely? Please say no.
The combination of this new position and grad school has definitely put the brakes on gigs. I have considered taking a few offers, but my schedule has been too packed to reasonably consider them.
What do you bring to Elementz’s leadership team that it didn’t already have?
The traumatic experiences from the pandemic and social injustice have affected us all, especially our youth. Having a creative program director/instructor trained in “trauma informed care” is a huge asset not only for after-school programming but for the many neighbors we engage in the community. Being able to add to the leadership discussion input through a mental health and overall well-being lens is crucial to improving and empowering the people we serve.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Honestly, being able to take a break from typing in front of a computer to go practice DJing is the highlight so far. Out of all the full-time day jobs I’ve had, being able to DJ while on the job is a first for me.
Where do you see Elementz going in the next couple of years?
With the new hire of General Manager Damian Hoskins and other amazingly talented full-time staff/creatives, our future is really bright. I expect our reach and impact on the community to expand further than what we’ve seen previously. The pandemic has created opportunities for us to expand our thinking and given us experiences in arenas we hadn’t yet entered. Our media presence will be more prominent, our story will be well known, and our impact on youth and the community using hip-hop for social and emotional development and empowerment will exceed expectations.