Coming Full Circle: Hard, but worth it!

The headline describes Brian Toppins’ journey to Atlanta for professional ProTools certification courses. Successful completion would make Brian one of the few professional music engineers and producers in the Hampton Roads Virginia region to achieve this industry recognized certification and take him closer to his goal of becoming a top producer in the music industry. The road, however, was not easy.

Brian, 22 years-old, had never been outside Virginia by himself. And despite the opportunity to earn an industry recognized certification, he was reluctant to break with his tradition. After receiving encouragement from many sources including, his mother, grandmother, friends, and those of us at YES, Brian finally decided to go for it. Still, however, he felt he needed some additional support. He reached out to a few friends and asked them if they would like to accompany him on a trip to Atlanta. Three of them said yes and the plans were made.

As the time for the trip drew closer, Brian began to get anxious. His confidence waned and he began to have second thoughts about his ability to pass the certification exam. To add to his concern, one by one his friends began to drop out of the trip. The day before he was to leave, the last young man decided not to go. I’m fairly certain that if it wasn’t for the fact that we had already paid for the $3,000.00 tuition and reserved the hotel room in Atlanta, Brian would have opted out at that point.

Instead he overcame his fears, got into the car and drove to Atlanta by himself. Brian called us when he arrived and I could hear some of the relief and perhaps even a little disbelief in his voice – he made it. After the first day of class he called us to let us know how things were going. There was good news and bad news. I always like the bad news first, but this time... The good news he told me was that he knew everything they were teaching him and I could tell his confidence was rising. The bad news was that he locked the keys to the rental car inside the car. Not too bad as far as bad news goes.

Over the next eight days we got more good reports about the training and Brian’s adjustment to being on his own in a foreign city. Next would come the moment of truth. Brian had to take the exam that would determine if all of the effort and expense were worth it, at least to him. We had already determined that the plan had paid off the moment he arrived in Atlanta. The personal growth Brian exhibited was easily the most important part of the journey. Everything else would be gravy.

We didn’t realize, though how great the gravy would taste. Brian ended up not only passing the certification examination, but earning the top score in his class! He is now one of a mere handful of Pro Tools Certified Operators in the Hampton Roads Virginia region. He is confident and prepared for new challenges. In addition to being the head producer/engineer at YES, he also serves as a group leader for YES community-based transition programs for youth involved in the courts system and foster care.

Brian has come a long way from the teenager we met 3 ½ years ago at our YES site at the William A. Hunton YMCA in Norfolk Virginia. He is now a leader. A man we know we can count on. Most importantly, he is someone that has confidence in himself. Brian describes it best in his own words, “Being ProTools Certified has really expanded my mind in the audio editing world. ProTools has enhanced my performance in editing in ways I couldn’t imagine. I feel being certified I can reach my goals much quicker and easier. I can also share my knowledge with others that didn’t have the opportunity I had.”