After Lakota West sophomore Amber Robinson was fatally stabbed in September 2009, Eric Ellis was asked by then-principal Richard Hamilton to talk to the student body about making good choices.
“As I thought about what I wanted to do, I decided that music was what I wanted to go after,” said Ellis, who is the president and CEO of Integrity Development Corporation, a consulting firm specializing in diversity solutions.
“I really thought that the music was sending messages to young people that were often times resulting in violence and bad choices.”
At the end of Ellis’ presentation to Lakota West students, his daughter, Jillian Ellis, who graduated from West in 2010, sang a song her father wrote for Robinson called “One more day.”
After the song, many students were left in tears.
The message was received.
Four years later, Ellis of West Chester Township is still trying to spread that message through his local record label, Positive Message Music.
“I believe that music is the language of this generation,” Ellis said. “Too often adults are talking about adult solutions to problems that relate to young people. I really want to give young people a chance to speak to their peers through music and we are seeing that happen.”
Ellis’ four kids didn’t share his vision. In fact, when he came up with the idea for Positive Message Music, his children teased him.
“At the beginning we thought he was insane,” said his 18-year-old son Eric Ellis II. “We thought he had lost his mind. He was just sitting in front of his computer every night, making up songs. He sounded like a maniac.”
Their opinions changed, however, when two of his children were among the first seven local artists to sign with the record label in August of 2011.
“When things started to come together, my sister and I thought that this could be something,” Ellis II said. “Once we realized that, we have been in the studio, writing music and enjoying it ever since.”
Ellis’ son, aka “E2,” and daughter, aka “J. Faith,” are among the 12 artists signed with Positive Message Music. Other artists include Chris Douglas (rap – “Chris D.”), Aaron Collins (rap – “Double A”), Kendra Northgrad (country), Jerron Long (rap – “K. Starr”), Constance Dee (gospel r&b) and Chris Brokamp (rock). The label also has a group called the Mudd Gang, which is made up of Marisa Moore, Jakhaari Blackmon, Quentin Walker and Tenise Propes.
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