Erica A. Watson, Co-Founder of Hyphenation Nation Productions & Music Arts Instructor
High School: Cass Technical High School
College: Wayne State University
Hood: Detroit, Michigan
How she’s making her mark on the city of Detroit:
As an Instrumental Music Education major at Wayne State, I have been blessed to make a direct impact on Detroit’s children through music. I completed my pre-student teaching at Spain Elementary and Middle School, where I established the very first beginner’s harp class. Right now I’m my earning teacher certification and completing my student teaching at my alma mater, Cass Technical High School. Every day, I’m given the opportunity to help shape the lives of Cass Tech students by contributing to the instruction of its legendary music curriculum.
I am also the co-founder of Detroit based film production company, Hyphenation Nation Productions. Hyphenation Nation Productions was founded in 2007 by cinematographer, Alesyn McCall and myself. It’s our mission to create films with the highest level of artistic integrity, while showing our city and our people in a positive light. We are working hard to contribute to Michigan’s growing film industry. Our motto is: real stories, honest films, and an extreme devotion to free artistic expression.
On how she accomplished her goals:
Cass Technical High School has really been the foundation for my accomplishments. I began studying piano at the age of 7, but it wasn’t until I enrolled in Cass Tech’s music curriculum at the age of 14, that I began studying the harp. The Cass Tech Harp program was created in 1925 and it is the oldest program of its kind in a public school setting in the United States.
The Cass Tech Music Department owns nine pedal harps, and students are allowed to study everyday for free. Former Cass Tech harp instructor and current WSU harp professor, Patricia Terry-Ross has not only continued to give me harp instruction, but has taught me values that will serve me well in life. Because of her, I understand the value of integrity, a strong work ethic, and the relentless pursuit of excellence.
The Cass Tech Harp Program has also given me the opportunity to establish beginning harp instruction at Spain Elementary/Middle School in Detroit. The program’s current instructor, Lydia Cleaver, donated two lever harps to Spain, so that the children could be exposed to the harp at a younger age and continue their instruction at Cass Tech.
It was through Cass Tech’s legendary Harp & Vocal Ensemble that I met my best friend and film partner, Alesyn McCall. Now, we are working hard to establish a film production company and contribute to the growing legacy of Cass Tech.
On why she chooses to stay in Detroit:
I was born and raised in Detroit, and no matter where my career takes me, I will always find my way back home. Detroit has provided me with so many opportunities to hone my skills as a writer, musician, and filmmaker. No matter where I go, I always carry Detroit in my spirit. I AM DETROIT. I am the innovation of the automotive industry and its impact on the world. I am the beautiful coalescence of Techno music, the alchemy of the Motown Sound, and the home of the world’s first jazz club. I am the ascension of Art Deco Sky Scrapers, the emotion of the theater district, and the honesty of bone-chilling winters. I am the relentless spirit of the Detroit Pistons. I am the pulse of the world.
On her favorite things about Detroit:
My favorite things about the city definitely revolve around its cultural center. Detroit is the home of some of the greatest writers, musicians, and visual artists in the world and I am privileged to be a part of their community.
Watch Erica’s film “La Muse”:
On what she wishes you knew about Detroit:
I wish that people really understood how beautiful Detroit is, and its unparalleled contributions to the world by way of automotive innovations, music, sports, medicine, and education. Contrary to popular belief, Detroit is not a place where you risk being shot, robbed, or raped any more than other major cities across the United States. Detroit is a place that will help you to cultivate your skills. No matter what your field is, if you take advantage of the best of what Detroit has to offer, you will be prepared to conquer the world.
On future plans:
I will be graduating from Wayne State University in May, with a Bachelors of Music (Concentration in Instrumental Music Educator), and a minor in Film. I am currently in the interview process for several Graduate Film Programs across the country. I plan to continue working as a musician and a filmmaker, and to share my work with the world.
Erica’s words of wisdom:
The best advice that I could give to others who want to go after their dreams in the city, would be to let them know that everything they need is right here. Detroit is the pulse of the world. If you really pursue excellence and take advantage of what the city has to offer, you are destined for success.