Known for their prowess both on stage and in the studio, the guys behind local hip-hop duo Big Quarters also tap into their enthusiasm for the arts to make ends meet. Brothers Brandon and Zach Bagaason -- better known by their stage names Brandon Allday and Medium Zach -- finance their musical lifestyle by teaching hip-hop-centered classes and workshops around the Twin Cities.
"Neither one of us went to school for teaching specifically," Brandon said. After studying journalism and Chicano studies at the University of Minnesota, Brandon saw an opportunity to give back to his community in a way that tied directly into his passion for hip-hop. For the past eight years, he and Zach have been combining their musical talents with youth work, and in the process have tapped a market large enough to render a life of 9-to-5s obsolete.
One place they got their start was with a YMCA after-school program called Beacons in 2005. Zach says he didn't expect his involvement with the program to eventually turn into steady work. "Someone said 'Hey, you can come in and teach beats and teach rapping, stuff that you like to do,'" Zach said. "I didn't know he was really talking about a job." At first, Zach assumed he would just be hanging out with the kids. Two weeks later he was teaching 17 middle-school boys about poetry and beat-making.
After honing their instructional skills in youth programs, the two were approached by the McNally Smith College of Music when the school began branching out into hip-hop. "When the hip-hop music production program was being developed, they knew we were the people to come to," Brandon said. They helped write the curriculum for the program, and have been teaching at the school since 2009.
Even with their college gig, the release of Big Quarters' new album "Party Like a Young Commie" and the opportunity to tour with Atmosphere this spring, Big Quarters still continue the grass-roots youth work that started them down this career path. They continue to hold workshops at neighborhood organizations such as Hope Community that are free and open to the public.
"The teaching gigs are for the most part what pay the bills," Zach said. "But it's definitely a big deal to be an artist and get to teach our craft to other young people like us."
BRANDON & ZACH BAAGASON
- Age: 30 (Brandon) and 28 (Zach)
- Job titles: Hip-hop instructors, youth leaders
- Employers: McNally Smith College of Music and other organizations that hire them for hip-hop workshops and youth work
- Start date: Around 2005
- Background: As the hip-hop duo Big Quarters, Brandon and Zach began developing hip-hop workshops and working with youths after graduating from the University of Minnesota and the Perpich Center for Arts Education, respectively