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Dayton to Showcase 'Funk Box Experience' Educational Tool

A high-tech educational tool at the Dayton Funk Music Hall of Fame teaches music history with custom hardware that allows participants to interact with software by waving a hand over three touchless motion sensors.

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(TNS) — Dayton-area students in grades 4 through 12 will soon experience an interactive history lesson on Dayton's place in popular culture with the Funk Box Experience. The state-of-the-art educational tool, designed by Tessellate Studio in New York, is presented in partnership with Dayton Live at PNC Arts Annex Feb. 6 through 10.

The Funk Box is just one of the teaching components from the Dayton Funk Music Hall of Fame & Exhibition Center. Finding new ways to share the history of the music and its Miami Valley roots became paramount for president and CEO David R. Webb after the nonprofit organization lost its brick-and-mortar location in 2019.

"Everybody thought we were finished in 2019 but we still kept it going," Webb said. "We've been doing 'The Funk Chronicles' on YouTube and 'The Dayton Scene Radio Show.' Then we came up with the digital Funk Box Experience to take to schools and colleges and different events so we could keep the music going."

Gary Minyard, vice president of education and engagement for Dayton Live, was already personally invested in the work of the Dayton Funk Music Hall of Fame, also known as the Funk Center.

"David and I have known each other for many years," Minyard said. "We've always shared a love of funk music. I've been able to do some things here at Dayton Live, like the Funk Unplugged Series. We've hosted the Ohio Players here when we had a Visual Voices exhibit focused on funk music."

"The one important thing is you're learning about these pillars in funk music like Sly & the Family Stone, James Brown and the Ohio Players," he said. "There is no end to the amount of influence they've all had on music, but young people today don't really understand that 40 years ago there were people making this music that's influencing the artists you love today. For them to hear where it comes from and the why, in a way they can be proud of, is going to be a really cool experience for them."


Tessellate Studio's Joseph Karadin, who lives in Dayton, is the architect of The Funk Box Experience. The exhibit uses custom hardware he designed that allow participants to interact with the software by waving a hand over one of three touchless motion sensors.

Karadin said he heard about the Funk Center losing its downtown space.

"Our company has developed a few museums from the ground up, so we've been through that process a few times. I reached out to David to see if we could help them out pro bono," he said.

They started developing the Funk Box in 2020. It took about nine months, and contributions from consultants like Rickey Vincent, Scot Brown, Joseph Wooten and Vernon Porter. The result is an interactive, educational experience.

"It's an educational goldmine because you're not just sitting and listening the whole time," Minyard said. "You're going to get up on your feet and you're going to interact with this box. These kids can come in and manipulate the sounds and learn where it came from. Because of your movement and because you're using some kinesthetic learning, you're going to learn a lot more."

In 2021, Dayton Live hosted a Funk Box pilot event at PNC Arts Annex to test out the technology with some local students.

"The teachers, the students and parents like how we're keeping funk alive through our television and radio shows and the Funk Box Experience. People are calling from across the country and even overseas with interest in what we're doing," Webb said.


Dayton Live has created a free resource guide that connects the dots between area funk acts of the past to modern performers like Bruno Mars and Galactic.

"We introduce them to the idea funk is an amalgamation of a bunch of other genres," Minyard said. "The next step is: Where does funk come from? What influenced those artists that made all these riffs and licks we know and how is that influencing pop music today? It's almost a never-ending music education journey."

Collaborating with these funk music scholars was revelatory for Karadin, who has been a fan of the genre since his Akron youth.

"They really helped break it down into a very simple understanding of how funk evolved and its tie to the larger culture," he said. "Funk was a subculture unto itself, which is something I never realized. I learned it wasn't just about music. It was a larger cultural movement within the African American community, which put a whole different perspective on it for me. It was so uniquely African American, Afrocentric and Afrofuturist and it was all of that wrapped up in one form of music. That blew my mind."


What: Funk Box Experience for students grades 4 through 12
Where: PNC Arts Annex, 46 W. Second St., Dayton, Ohio
When: 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, Feb. 6 through 10
Cost: $5
More info: 937-228-3630 or

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