LaeCharles Lawerence Jr.
Vocalist + Videographer
LaeCharles is a vocalist with with a strong work ethic, immutable love of all ladies, and undeniable stage presence. Whether he's singing, rapping, doing voice overs, or slipping into a silly disguise, LaeCharles's sense of humor comes through in everything he does. Though his parents raised him on the sounds of John Coltrane and Dave Brubeck, LaeCharles loves all genres of music, from Black Sabbath to Bob Marley to Tribe Called Quest...and much in between.
A native of the East Bay, in Berkeley public school he studied improvisational trumpet with local favorites Joshua Redman and Miles Perkins. After school he was one of the youngest members Urban Noise, a ska band fronted by punk rock talent Tim Armstrong, of the legendary punk bands Operation Ivy and Rancid. In his first foray into front-man territory, LaeCharles developed a Bay Area cult following when he led the ground-breaking group All Star Delicious. Following that he collaborated with the MC's of LA powerhouse-punk group Ten G Bob---Max Golay and Zach McLain---to create Marvin Means Marvelous.
In 2003 LaeCharles built his own studio in order to serve up his own mix of early hip-hop beats, modern sounds, and tongue-in-cheek lyrics. His production team, Chocolate O'Brian, is made up of producer and drummer Dave Tweedie, and No Doubt alumn Stephen Bradley. LaeCharles likes to juxtapose mundane subjects with hyped up beats, like “Whole Foods Parking Lot (Berkeley Remix),” which has had more than 100,000 YouTube views. You can hear LaeCharles's songs on So You Think You Can Dance, Superstars of Dance, and The Bernie Mac Show. For live shows, he performs under the name L.A.E.: Live Audio Explosion. He's working on his second studio album.
Writer + Filmmaker + Musician
Writer, filmmaker and musician Claude Parnell also holds a degree in Criminology from Monroe College for Criminal Science, but music was his first passion. Though the trumpet was his first love, these days Claude also raps, reads music and produces tunes with midi controllers. He’s recorded more than 100 songs with the rap group M.O!
In 2011 Claude moved from his hometown, the Bronx, to broaden his horizons and start an MFA program at the San Francisco Art Academy. He loves the free-spirited culture of the city. “It’s the perfect city for an artist looking for inspiration,” he says.
As he dug deeper into song writing, he became more interested in developing narratives. When the stories in his head would no longer fit into tidy, four-minute songs, he began writing plays. And so it was his love of music that led to his burgeoning career in film. Claude’s music is influenced by Kanye West, Pharrel Williams and 50 Cent. With his own music, he tries “to make a unique sound with a universal understanding.”
He says Learn HTML With Song is a fun way to challenge his lyrical delivery. “While doing this project it has opened my mind about music-making and the importance of the audience hearing, while enjoying, what the artist creates.”
Musician + Songwriter
Ben Laatsch has been hooked on the guitar since he got his Alvarez 6 string at age twelve. He likes classical guitars for busking and he's always on the lookout for guitars made in Japan in the sixties and seventies. “They are affordable and often hand-made,” he says.
But Ben doesn't only play guitar. He also plays bass, keyboards, drums, banjo, trumpet and ukulele. He says,“When I moved to California I started using the ukulele just for fun and then almost exclusively because it was so easy to travel with.”
Originally from Indiana, Ben was influenced and inspired by many Chicago bands. He played in many local bands near his home town and started touring with his own music as soon as he got the chance. “Touring the Midwest had a huge impact on me as an artist. I had a the opportunity to see what many other artists where playing and how they performed their recorded works.”Ben currently lives in Oakland and performs in the pop rock group A B & The Sea. Besides music, Ben likes to cook up delicious food and burn it off later on his road bike.
Spin Doctor and Word Wrangler
Karma Bennett is the Learn HTML With Song girl friday, helping with social media, writing, web marketing and editing.
A lifelong music lover, she spent much of her childhood "dancing around the living room to my mom's record collection." Her first concert was in utero, Blondie and Rockpile 1979. She has attended more concerts than she can remember, from getting beer thrown on her baby blankey at the Wham! concert to catching a drumstick thrown out at the '95 Smashing Pumpkins show. One of her earliest memories was getting a kiss from Cindy Lauper.
When asked her favorite musicians, she spit out this little rhyme, " Jett (Joan), Nina Simone, Bowie, Tori, Beatles, Blondie, Cloud Cult, Ani, and The Clash." She was quick to add that these days she listens to way too many acts to have a current favorite.
Karma has a degree in creative writing and sociology from Florida State University. During her college years, she worked as a 16 mm film projectionist and ran an agency that, among other things, brought Jello Biafra to speak at her school. She worked for Student Campus Entertainment, which put her working the door and backstage at fun shows like Sean Lennon, Pato Banton, and George Clinton. She also occasionally volunteered for FSU's award-winning radio station, WVFS.
Karma has worked most of her career as a book publicist (John Lennon's half-sister is among her many previous clients). When she decided to start start her own PR and writing company, she took an HTML course in San Francisco taught by none other than Diane Presler.
For fun, Karma loves dancing, taking photos of Bay Area graffiti, writing about culture and books, singing along to muzak at the grocery store, and helping people find their new favorite bands. She also likes to DJ.
About her music site, and her many music playlists, she says "It slays me when people say 'they just don't make good music these days.' There are so many fantastic bands out there in every genre, and I just want to help people find them." Karma says if you send her a list of your favorite bands she will recommend some new acts for you to listen to.
3D artist Chad Murdoch contributed FX, titles and animation to Learn HTML With Song.
Several years ago, while working as an art director in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Chad got his first taste of what can be done with CGI and animation, and was immediately captivated. Graduated in 2014 with a Master of Fine Arts in Animation & Visual Effects from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Along the way, he has expanded his portfolio by freelancing in advertising, films and music videos, a combination that will continue to be his main artistic focus as he moves forward.
Editor, colorist and technical consultant David Santamaria helped shoot the HTML tag video and says he may work on future videos for Learn HTML With Song.com.
David’s latest film is “Slide Rail Superman,” a mockumentary that premiered at the San Francisco Indy Festival. He also worked recently as finishing editor on the film "Return Flight," which aired on PBS in November of 2013. In a one-year film residency at the Ninth Street IFC Media Arts Incubator program, David is currently working on a feature-length documentary titled “Harriet.” He is also an Apple Certified Trainer in video editing and motion graphics.
Although David hails originally from New York, he now lives and works in Oakland, California where he is a founding member of the media collaborative, Early Man Productions. His technical expertise is buttressed by his leisure-time love of cycling and stickball, but what really motivates David’s creative work is his earnest desire to help the world become just a little bit better than it was before he came into it. The lyrics of Lou Reed, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen — characterized by David as “workingmen's poets who never sold out” — have helped to lay out the path ahead of him.
Front-End Web Developer
Starr Smith wears many creative hats — front-end developer, graphic designer and digital photographer, to name a few. Using HTML5 and CSS3 in a Bootstrap framework, she added the responsive elements to Learn HTML With Song, as well as developing a Wordpress child-theme for the accompanying blog.
As a woman who wrote her first program on a Tandy keyboard with a tape-cassette drive in the 1980s, she’s so engrossed in creative tech work that there’s no clear dividing line between her professional life and her best-loved pastimes — unless you count her long-term goal of avoiding “the coming zombie apocalypse.” When a new technology is due to emerge, Starr jockeys to place herself near the front of the line among early adopters. She describes herself as a knowledge junkie, happily yoked to her laptop.
Ekmund Yong, who has worked in films for more than six years, brought his skills as a videographer to Learn HTML With Song.com.
While working at a broadcasting station in his native Malaysia, Ekmund became fascinated with filmmaking. He worked for the TWBA Malaysia advertising agency and the Astro All Asia Networks TV station, while also contributing to various indie projects. His portfolio includes everything from documentaries and corporate advertising to cinematic wedding videos. In 2013 Ekmund advanced his skills by completing a postgraduate degree in Directing for Motion Pictures and Television at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. In the same year, he worked as the cinematographer on “Defining the Roots,” a film that was selected for the short film corner at Cannes.
Ekmund’s love of filmmaking is fueled by his desire to tell compelling stories, and he’s found that cinematography is the perfect medium for his art. Even in his spare time, he is usually writing film scripts and developing ideas for new stories. With inspiration from international filmmakers like David Fincher, Christopher Doyle and Zhang Yimou, it’s not surprising that Ekmund wants the next steps in his career to take him to Hollywood.
Jasmine Ko worked as a producer on music videos for Learn HTML With Song. She first became interested in the power of video editing, and then more broadly in filmmaking, as an undergraduate in her home country of Taiwan, and she later completed a Master of Fine Arts degree at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
Her career has included work for Taiwanese production companies in commercials and TV shows, and she has contributed to various projects as producer, director, cinematographer and editor. Jasmine recently directed “Defining the Roots,” a story focusing on the experience of a Chinese American who explores his roots through the connection with Tai Chi. It was selected for the short film corner at Cannes in 2013 and nominated in her university’s Epidemic Film Festival.
Like most people who work with film, Jasmine wants to use the moving image to tell stories that command spellbound attention, but she says her parents, storytellers themselves, kindled her interest before she even knew she would work in filmmaking and imparted the guiding principles by which she lives and works. Her pastimes of photography and travel naturally complement her art.
Compulsive media maker, storyteller and teacher Keith Battle says his contribution to Learn HTML With Song was “an alternative to the common perception of coders.” The stereotypical coder has an image problem all right, but Keith’s camerawork and even his animated titles lend the breed some badly needed sex appeal.
Keith claims there’s nothing professional about a creative career. His opinion stands up because he’s been at it since the 7th grade, when he “ripped off” lyrics from The Cramps to finish a school assignment that earned high praise. The Cramps episode was one of those light bulb moments. It taught Keith that people who make words, and imagine whole worlds to go with them, hold special powers.
With a lifelong enthusiasm for martial arts, a desire to “enact equity” through digital media, and a habit of reading philosophy, Keith’s imaginary worlds are likely populated by Kung Fu heroes modeled on Bruce Lee and his Harlem counterpart Bruce Leroy, aka Taimak, a “nerdy brown man who kicks ass.”
Keith is on a search for justice in a world of wannabe shoguns and other bullies. He approaches the art of camera operation as a meditation on awareness, finding beauty in simplicity and power in defying convention.