Freestyle Love Supreme Shows Some Love for Arts Education
Freestyle Love Supreme. It sounds a bit like a funk band from the 70’s. It’s not. It’s an improv group that uses freestyle rap as its style. The group has been described as a mashup between the Wu-Tang Clan and Whose Line is it Anyway. They’re featured on a new reality show on Pivot TV, where they take their freestylin’ to the streets and schools of NYC.
As part of all new content created at Participant Media (the parent company of Pivot TV and producers of An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman, and The Help), the company uses its social platform, TakePart, to encourage readers to take action around a cause inspired by the content. In this case Freestyle Love Supreme inspired an action campaign about the importance of arts education called Love Arts Ed. Since we here at Americans for the Arts do indeed Love Arts Ed, we caught up with the leader of Freestyle Love Supreme, Anthony Veneziale, to ask him about his passion for improv, and how it connects to arts education. Answers are edited for brevity.
KE: You have an impressive bio. What led you to create Freestyle Love Supreme?
AV: I was in an improv group in college called Gag Reflex. I came to believe that everyone can rap. It’s just about giving you permission to fail. A lot. Also, while in college I met Tommy Kail (who I later worked with on In the Heights). He and I were on this road trip from Chicago to Des Moines. Because of a tornado warning, it ended up being a 16 hour drive. We had on the Daft Punk song “Around the World” and we started improvising to the beat of the song, and I was like, ‘We’re not going to stop freestyling until we get there.’ That’s when the idea was born.
KE: What’s with the name Freestyle Love Supreme?
AV: I’m a jazz trombonist, and I was greatly influenced by John Coltrane’s album, A Love Supreme. Then in August 2003 there was a blackout in NYC, and we were doing a performance at the PIT (Peoples Improv Theatre in NYC) where we decided to have a freestyle “love” battle—the game was to tell the other person why they were better than you, which is the opposite of how you win a normal freestyle battle. I suggested the name Freestyle Love Supreme after that, and the guys hated it at first, but after a month it just stuck.
KE: Can you describe an early arts experience that led you to your career in writing, producing, and performing?
AV: In 6th grade, I was convinced I’d never be on stage. But I had a teacher, Marge Anderson, who brought her full self to her teaching and encouraged us students to figure out who we were. She encouraged us to take risks. School can be a very narrow path. But the arts generate so many ideas and crush through the mindset of standardized testing. Having that safe space in an arts class teaches kids that it’s okay to fail.
KE: You are clearly very passionate about the transformative power of arts education for students. What are you and the other members of Freestyle Love Supreme doing to support arts education?
AV: I would encourage everyone to voice their support. Use Facebook, Twitter, your PTA, or whatever to get the message out about how important arts education is. Raise your voice.
If you Love Arts Ed as much as Anthony and the gang from Freestyle Love Supreme and Participant Media, then check out the Love Arts Ed website—it has news articles, educational videos, and tools that you can use to spread the word about the importance of arts education.
And if you want a quick and easy way to show your love for arts ed, then sign the petition and hit share!