By Michael French | CNA Media Team
André Middleton, executive director of Friends of Noise, is a man on the move. You might find the 53-year-old community leader, activist and youth mentor talking up his nonprofit, transporting a sound system to a fundraiser or protest, or supporting youth performers and musicians as they gear up for an all-ages show.
A native New Yorker who moved to Oregon for college, André earned a degree in film and video production from Marylhurst University.
He has spent the following two decades immersed in the Portland-area arts scene, working with the Regional Arts & Culture Council and Open Signal, among others. Today André sits on boards of multiple arts organizations.
He saw a need for all-age musical events when he found few performances his then 13-year-old daughter could attend. The void led André to start Friends of Noise in 2016 to provide all-age concerts, sound system training and paying jobs for youth.
“We produce concerts that are run and produced by the teens we work with. We work with young people who are performers as well,” André said. “We book kids to perform.”
Friends of Noise also produces a youth-DJ-run show on XRAY.fm and hopes to secure a permanent location for all-age performances in the next two to three years. For details and/or to support the organization, visit FriendsOfNoise. org.
After attending a local rally shortly after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, André realized speakers’ voices couldn’t carry over the crowd. The message was getting lost.
So André and a friend developed a battery-powered mobile sound system that’s since been used at more than 20 protests.
“My ability to amplify the voices of protesters became a salve for me. It allowed me to get out of the house. It allowed me to contribute to a movement that I believe in and support,” he said.
André said he sees signs of change. “I think the growing pains that Portland is going through hopefully will result in a stronger, broader, more diverse community.
“African Americans – through a lot of hard work and community building, despite gentrification – are rising to positions of power. Look at Cameron Whitten and the Black Resilience Fund. Look at Jo Ann Hardesty on city council, former police chief Danielle Outlaw and current fire chief Sara Boone.”
André appreciates what his Cully neighborhood has to offer. “It’s a beautiful area. I love the diversity, a lot of Asian Americans, African Americans – older, younger, families – it’s nice to see how diverse and broad the community is.”
Michael French is grateful to live on 28th Avenue in Concordia, a place where neighbors talk to each other and he can get most places on foot, by bike or transit. Contact him at MFrench96@gmail.com.