West Louisville native Jecorey Arthur uses his extensive knowledge of music to educate kids, entertain people of all ages, and give back to his community. He performs and records his own music under the name 1200, teaches at Simmons College, and brings music education to Louisville public schools.
As a student himself, Arthur found music to be an incentive to be engaged in school, where he played in the band and was a drum major. He went on to study music at the University of Louisville.
As an artist, his music is genre-defying and experimental.
“I tried my best to take this classical world that I existed in at the music school at U of L and merge it with this hip hop world,” says Arthur. “At that point, I took my artistry to the next level. I thought, okay, not only am I going to fuse these genres and continue making this music, I’m going to step on all the toes of the dead composers that we’ve got to study because I’m going to show you that I belong in this space.”
Arthur adds that combining classical and hip hop makes sense on a purely musical level.
“We all have the same 12 notes,” he says. “We essentially have the same 12 pitches. We essentially have the same set of rhythms and there are only so many combinations you can have. In classical music, it was really the first genre that utilized ‘sampling’ before hip hop coined the term. You listen to Tchaikovsky’s music and he’s taking Russian folk tunes and incorporating them into his symphonies…Music is music. It doesn’t matter what the genre. It all kind of flows into one another.”
Arthur shares his passion for music with public school students in his hometown.
“As a teacher, I have tried to focus most of my work on the students of the schools that exist in West Louisville because they have the least amount of resources,” says Arthur. “And oddly enough, they have the least amount of teachers of color. When I say I’m a teacher, [the kids] perk up a little bit. They don’t expect it.”
Arthur explains that music brings elements of all fields of study. For example, beats and rhythms use math concepts, and history provides context to how and why certain types of music came about.
“Music combines every core subject, but unfortunately over 3.8 million kids in the United States don’t have access to it,” he says. “You can learn so much by simply singing songs with [students] or playing instruments with them. Everything from collaboration to creativity to confidence, critical thinking, and cognition skills. The possibilities are endless when it comes to music education.”
On top of his many musical endeavors, Arthur is engaged in on-the-ground social justice work in West Louisville, including the Parkland neighborhood where he grew up.
“Little Africa was once the black-only section of Parkland,” he says. “In 1968, when Dr. King was assassinated, all hell broke loose in what is now deemed as the May 27th Parkland disturbance. In the midst of the chaos, two teens were killed. Little Africa since then has, as a name, kind of faded into the abyss.
“It was important that the place that raised me, the place that kept me safe, that got me to where I am today, was provided its justice,” Arthur continues. “So we’re bringing money into the neighborhood. We’re bringing art and opportunities into the neighborhood. We’re bringing the definition of what community is into the neighborhood with Little Africa, this arts and culture plaza.
“My mission is to create cultural, social, and economic liberation for disadvantaged, disenfranchised, and displaced people,” says Arthur. “I want to make sure they are impacted so that they have equity and inclusion for what the American dream really is.”
This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2505, which originally aired on November 2, 2019. Watch the full episode.