One of the most common stories I’ve heard from the musicians I’ve interviewed over the years is how much having good teachers affected their trajectory. In this issue, Joshua Karpeh, AKA Cautious Clay, told me: “I had a really inspirational teacher, a very creative-minded person, and he was a good influence on my perspectives on creating music and being open to that.” Although most of us will never land a hit single on The Billboard Hot 100, the ability to express ourselves creatively is one of the most joyful acts in life and is something that many people don’t get a chance to do because of lack of money, time, or some combination of the two. For Mike Pope, music is an art that not only provides solace throughout life’s joys and challenges, but also can have a meaningful impact on the community in which he lives and works.
Born on Chicago’s west side, Mike was fortunate to find music at an early age. Taking part in his church gospel choir and receiving mentorship from various people, Pope was able to use music as his escape from the drugs, gangs and violence that consumed his neighborhood.
Now, a successful vocalist who has performed at the Nelson Mandela Memorial Service, in a PBS film production of “A Christmas Carol: The Concert,” and with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Pope has founded Forte Community Music Project to offer pop-up music schools in both the Fox Cities of Wisconsin where he lives, and in Chicago, where he performs as part of the 13-piece big band Swing Assembly. By creating a safe space for people to achieve their full potential through music, Pope believes anyone can then find their voice and become a more confident performer and singer, no matter what style they prefer to sing.