Ashton Combs

Songwriter Ashton Combs, a Lincoln native, who had a new song recorded by Sean Paul and Tory Lanez on the iTunes Hot 100 last year, has created the Inspire to Dream Music Camp for local high school students.

Journal Star file photo

Khari "Needlz" Cain is on his way to Lincoln next week, bringing the production skills he’s used with the likes of Drake, Bruno Mars and 50 Cent to work with local artists and producers.

Except those artists will be 20 high school students who will take part in the Inspire to Dream Music Camp, a multiday workshop put together by Ashton ‘Hitwrita’ Combs, a Lincoln native who is now a producer and writer in Atlanta. The camp, Combs said, is designed to provide an opportunity for aspiring artists, producers and engineers that wasn’t available when he was growing up in Lincoln in the early 2000s.

“When I was coming up in music in Nebraska, I was told a lot of times I wouldn’t be able to do anything because I was from Lincoln,” said Combs, who graduated from Lincoln High in 2006. “Now I’ve had songs on the radio. I’ve worked with dozens of artists. Now I want to give back, to show them they can do something, tell my story. It’s really to inspire.”

To create the camp, Combs teamed up with Brandon McWilliams of Men With Dreams, then recruited Cain, who will take two days off from his sessions to work with the Lincoln students.

“I’ve actually known Needlz since I was 14,” Combs said. “When I was an artist, his brother was in a master’s program at the University of Nebraska. I sent him a demo. I didn’t actually meet Needlz until I was 25. But I was sending him songs, keeping in touch. You have to stick with things, and you have to build up relationships. Nothing comes easy.”

That’s some of the advice that Combs wants to share with students during the camp, which will begin at 10 a.m. Oct. 14. The camp will be held at Cloud City, a recording studio at 2124 Y St. operated by Kevan Griffin, who recently returned to Lincoln after spending years as a top New York City hip-hop engineer.

“He engineered for Diddy and Big Boy,” Combs said. “It’s not just any studio.”

The final camp professional is University of Nebraska-Lincoln trumpet professor Darryl White. White will be part of the music education segment on the camp’s opening day. Then the students will begin planning the song that they will write, record and produce over the next two days.

The finished song will be played on Lincoln radio station Red 94.5 (KBBK-HD2, 94.5 FM), guaranteeing that the students get their song on the radio, an audible demonstration that they can do something, Combs said.

Students need to apply for one of 20 spots in the camp that will, thanks to scholarships from sponsors, cost just $35. Full cost of the camp would have been $400 without the scholarships

“They’re going to be in good hands for $35,” Combs said.

The participants must have skill with either an instrument or vocals, verified by a music educator. Applications for the camp can be obtained by emailing McWilliams at or Combs at

Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or

On Twitter @LJSWolgamott.


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