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Atlanta Music Project rolling with 15-passenger van given on TV show

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Singer-actor Common (right), a guest host on the new Fox TV show "Knock Knock Live, " walks with Atlanta Music Project executive director Dantes Rameau. Rameau about to find out that his Atlanta nonprofit is receiving a customized 15-passenger van to transport its student musicians plus a donation of $50,000 and instruments. CONTRIBUTED BY FOX
Singer-actor Common (right), a guest host on the new Fox TV show "Knock Knock Live, " walks with Atlanta Music Project executive director Dantes Rameau. Rameau about to find out that his Atlanta nonprofit is receiving a customized 15-passenger van to transport its student musicians plus a donation of $50,000 and instruments. CONTRIBUTED BY FOX

Singer-actor Common (right), a guest host on the new Fox TV show “Knock Knock Live, ” walks with
Atlanta Music Project executive director Dantes Rameau. Rameau about to find out that his Atlanta nonprofit is receiving a customized 15-passenger van to transport its student musicians plus a donation of $50,000 and instruments. CONTRIBUTED BY FOX

Growing up in Ottawa, bassoonist Dantes Rameau was a fan of hip-hop artist Common. So Rameau knew it was an uncommon day when he answered a knock at the door during rehearsals earlier this month at the Gilbert House recreation center in southwest Atlanta only to find the musician-actor waiting with a TV crew on the porch.

In his role as a guest host on the new Fox TV show “Knock Knock Live” that premiered Tuesday, Common was paying a surprise visit to Rameau, co-founder and executive director of the Atlanta Music Project. Common’s mission: to lay some gifts on the Atlanta nonprofit that provides tuition-free music education to under-served youths.

Atlanta Music Project staff and students who had kept a major donation from the new Fox TV show "Knock Knock Live" secret from the nonprofit's executive director Dantes Rameau are excited at the moment of the big reveal. Musician-actor Common (center), a show guest host, shares the moment wth Rameau (right, in blue shirt and tie). Aisha Bowden, AMP's co-founder who nominated Rameau, is on the other side of Common. CONTRIBUTED BY FOX

Atlanta Music Project staff and students who had kept a major donation from the new Fox TV show “Knock Knock Live” secret from the nonprofit’s executive director Dantes Rameau are excited at the moment of the big reveal. Musician-actor Common (center), a show guest host, shares the moment wth Rameau (right, in blue shirt and tie). Aisha Bowden, AMP’s co-founder who nominated Rameau, is on the other side of Common. CONTRIBUTED BY FOX

“I had no idea this was going to happen until I opened the door and there was Common and a bunch of cameras in my face,” Rameau, 32, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It took a lot of coordination and colluding and hiding by staff, board members, students and their parents. They managed to keep it a secret and lure me to be in the right place at the right time. I was really stunned.”

Rameau’s shock soon gave way to victorious fist pumps when he discovered that Common was there to bestow a fully customized 15-passenger van to help the Atlanta Music Project transport its students to and from performances. Even sweeter, the tricked-out 2015 Ford Transit-350 was laden with string, brass and keyboard instruments. And automotive brands Maaco and Meineke, who provided the wheels and musical equipment, also donated $50,000.

That brought tears to Rameau’s eyes, captured in the five-minute “Knock Knock Live” segment that ended with Atlanta Music Project students accompanying Common on the Oscar-winning song “Glory” from the film in which he co-starred, “Selma.”

“Watching the kids perform with Common, I was telling myself, ‘You see, guys: Look who’s here performing with you, and you can’t do this with him without all the (hard) work. It’s worth it!’” Rameau said in the segment.

Atlanta Music Project received this customized 15-passenger van to transport its student musicians on the new Fox TV show "Knock Knock Live." CONTRIBUTED BY FOX

Atlanta Music Project received this customized 15-passenger van to transport its student musicians on the new Fox TV show “Knock Knock Live.” CONTRIBUTED BY FOX

Rameau said the gifts will be a “game-changer” for his grass-roots group that launched in 2010 with seven students from the Gilbert House neighborhood. It now serves 200 students at four sites, and plans to reach 300 in two years.

AMP provides its students with an instrument, a “teaching artist,” classes and numerous performance opportunities. The group eschews entrance auditions, requiring only that the musicians commit to attending all classes.

Rameau has raised more than $1.3 million for the organization but was not fundraising for a van, figuring the nonprofit wouldn’t be able to afford one and insurance. Instead, it has rented charter buses for the students and U-Hauls to transport equipment for many of its roughly 25 concerts per year.

AMP co-founder Aisha Bowden nominated him for “Knock Knock Live,” which is hosted by former Atlantan Ryan Seacrest.

“Instead of paying each time, this will save us a ton of money,” Rameau said. “And it will literally allow us to take on more gigs for our kids, because if we don’t have enough money to pay for a charter bus, we have to say no.

“It was always our dream to have our own van … So it’s a dream come true, this van.”


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