Empowering Young People to Find their Voice Through Music

Empowering Young People to Find their Voice Through Music

Jennifer Smithberger
November 09, 2018

At seedership, we believe that small acts of kindness make a difference and small businesses are at the heart of their communities.

Small businesses do a lot in their communities. From volunteering on non-profit boards and sponsoring youth sports teams to running food drives and donating to silent auctions, all these things add up to create a meaningful impact.

So it’s only fitting that at our launch event, hosted on World Kindness Day at Land-Grant Brewing Company in Columbus, Ohio, we put this concept into action and celebrate our milestone by engaging participants in small acts of kindness to benefit a great cause.

Land-Grant introduced us to The Dick and Jane Project, a local charity that empowers middle-school students to find their voice through songwriting. It’s such a creative approach to teaching students how to positively express their perspectives, we immediately knew they were the right partner for this event.

We asked Nick D’Andrea, executive director, The Dick and Jane Project, to help us get to know the organization a little better.

We’re excited to celebrate World Kindness Day by doing good for the benefit of The Dick and Jane Project. Can you share with us how  your organization serves the community?

We write and record radio quality songs with school-age kids all over the city, pairing them up with professional producers and musicians to bring their words to life. The schools and programs we work with are primarily in underserved communities, with schools and populations that have limited or no access to high quality arts programming. As part of the workshop the students all get to visit a world class studio at Groove U Music Career Academy to complete their songs side by side with our producers.

For most of us the process of songwriting is a mystery,  give us a behind the scenes view of what it takes to create a radio-ready song?

We spend the first few days developing a theme and a musical palette with the kids based on their own musical tastes. Next, we spend a few days of writing and discussion based around the theme we chose. Once we have a pool of words and ideas to draw from, we piece them together like a patchwork quilt into the different parts of our songs. Then with the help of the producers we bring the students ideas to life, allowing them to take the helm as co-producers and steer the creative direction of their songs.

Can you share an experience that helps bring to life the impact of what The Dick and Jane Project does?

Over the course of a week of discussion and writing, often about past experiences both positive and negative, the workshop can almost take on the role of a group therapy session. There have been many occasions when lyrics have been drawn directly from some deeply personal experiences that the students openly shared with their peers. Every workshop I’ve ever been a part of has its own special moment when the students connect and relate to each other in incredible ways. The safe space that music and the songwriting process is able to create has made it possible for students to share stories of losing loved ones, dealing with discrimination, and even being hospitalized with a nervous breakdown. It also provides students with an aspirational platform to express everything from combating prejudice, to defying mainstream ideas of beauty.

With the help of more than 200 students from 35 schools throughout Columbus, The Dick and Jane Project has produced more than 60 songs. What’s one of your favorite songs?

One of my favorite songs is a song entitled “Take the High Road.” It was written by five girls from Wedgewood Middle School, all first generation immigrants from Somalia. They chose to write a song about experiencing discrimination first hand in their school. The advice they gave was to take the high road and to rebuke discrimination by embracing and loving who you are. The principal of their school liked the song so much that she played it over the announcements and at a multicultural event at the school that was meant to help bring the community together. That workshop is a perfect illustration of the power of music, and how giving students an opportunity to create music can empower them to express themselves.

‍Thank you, Nick. We appreciate getting the inside look to how students collaborate with musicians and music producers to create radio ready songs. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to help drive awareness to what you are doing throughout Columbus and, ultimately, raising money to help you keep creating more positive music.

If you are in the Columbus area on Tuesday, November 13, come join us to raise funds by doing acts of kindness for The Dick and Jane Project. Click here to learn more about the event, and visit the The Dick and Jane Project’s discography to listen to some fun, witty, insightful songs written by Columbus’ youth with powerful messages to share.

Get connected

Subscribe to our newsletter and get resources sent to your inbox. Select topics of interest.

Get connected