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First Milwaukee musicians complete Backline program meant to elevate local artists

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A new program called Backline is supporting local musicians to help get their careers to the next level. 

It was created by 88Nine Radio Milwaukee and Gener8tor, a business start-up. 

“I think they are so much more confident in their ability to navigate the industry," said Brian Lynch, assistant program director. 

Four talented musicians were selected to go through the 12-week accelerated program. It provides coaching, mentoring, industry networking and $20,000 in grants for each of the artists. 

They performed live at the 88Nine Radio Milwaukee performance space last month.

"Our first artist is a hip hop, rap artist by the name of Zed Kenzo. We have a soul-pop artist by the name of Lex Allen, we have a rock singer-songwriter by the name of Abby Jeanne and an EDM producer by the name of Crystal Knives," said Enrique Rodriguez, program director. 

For Lex Allen, Backline has been a dream. 

"Yeah, a beautiful one," Allen said. 

Allen grew up in a household filled with music, which inspired his soulful music today. At the showcase, he performed his new song, "Let go." 

“'Let go' is me shedding my past, shedding all the drama, hurt and loss," said Allen. "It's my first song with a really big choir." 

Zed Kenzo, an alternative rap artist is hoping to bring her music on tour. Before the Backline program, Kenzo performed at live shows but wasn't able to properly record her songs. 

“I didn’t have the resources or the money to record any of my music and that’s why this has been perfect so it has been a lot of studio time," said Kenzo. 

Abby Jeanne, a rock singer, and songwriter has been the music scene for a couple of years. She started her Rock and Roll journey in her minivan traveling and sharing her music back in 2010. In 2015, she came back to the Milwaukee area to focus on her music and released her first album last year. 

“Home will always be here even though my heart is with the world. I want my music to be with the world," said Jeanne. 

Backline's been a boost in her career. 

“It's not a competition or it shouldn’t be. It’s not American Idol, it's real artists, making real art,  doing real things," Jeanne said. 

Spencer Mutch also is known as Crystal Knives is a drummer turned electronic producer and songwriter. He's performed in shows across the nation and at large festivals like Spring Awakening. 

"Six years ago, I discovered dance music," said Mutch. 

His music had the Backline crew and the audience dancing at the live show.

During the duration of the program, the artists not only focused on music but also on personal development and building a core network. 

"Building that sense of community has been really cool," Mutch said. 

The program has given these artists the tools to make the next step. 

"I have big dreams and a drive and it usually gets you far they say," Allen said. 

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