Meet Resident Artist Mentor(RAM) in Music, Tom Van Buskirk

As you may know, this has been a year of growth for New Urban Arts, in both the number of students served and the expanded space available to them in the studio. With our new recording studio in the basement, we knew we had to have someone supervising and working with our youth during studio hours. To address this need, we created a Music Resident Artist Mentor (RAM) position at the beginning of this year. The Music RAM is in the studio about 25 hours a week supporting our youth and caring for the instruments and equipment. Our current Resident Artist Mentor in Music is Tom Van Buskirk!

Tom is an electronic musician and performer. As the psychic medium half of the band Javelin, he has performed in venues as diverse as The Whitney Museum, Lollapalooza, Celebrate Brooklyn, and The Olneyville Public Library. Tom is dedicated to an intuitive and inclusive approach to recording music, writing lyrics, and moving the crowd. He enjoys poetry and tennis, and is a graduate of Classical High School and Brown University. AmeriCorps VISTA member Saulo Castillo interviewed him, check it out below:

How did you end up at NUA?

I first came to NUA in 2006, encouraged by Dan Schleifer to show a few students how to make beats— we used a sampler and synthesizer that I brought from home. I still have those recordings! In 2013-4, I was a mentor in music. We recorded a huge amount of material and dreamed of NUA having a real studio one day…

How does your creative practice help you do your job here at NUA?

My work involves a lot of listening to and sampling of other artists’ work. So in some ways I have been collaborating on material for years— but now I get to collaborate with students’ creative ideas in a much more real way. Also, I love to appreciate a wide range of music, so I enjoy meeting students where they’re at and letting them take the lead in any production we work on together.

Do you have any upcoming artistic endeavors?

I’m working on a new project called Actual Magic, scheming on a new Javelin album, and learning to DJ better. I am also producing work for hire now and then and of course, my latest musical collaboration with the drawing/painting RAM, Aneudy Alba, called Agassi Fresh!

New Urban Arts has been fortunate to partner with music and recording equipment companies like Critter & Guitari, InMusic, and Moog. Can you tell us a little bit about their contributions to the studio?

The music studio has been outfitted with an array of sound makers, gadgets, keyboards and effects. Critter & Guitari contributed two very fun, invitingly playable synthesizers (one of which synthesizes video). Moog provided three world class analog synthesizers, effects pedals, and a theremin. InMusic generously donated closed ear headphones, midi keyboard controllers, and Virtual Instruments and effects for our computer stations. All of these are what help keep the studio bustling and productive every day.

Anything you want to say to our music studio sponsors?

Your donations are being used every day to stimulate students’ creativity! Without the tools we were given, the studio would be a much less dynamic place to create — so thank you!

When does Agassi Fresh drop?

Hopefully around French Open / Wimbledon.


Ugh I’m allergic to wheat so my options aren’t great for either… Still cake though.