Youth Leading with Music
This past Tuesday morning, I met a friend for coffee. Just a week earlier she had approached me, eyes shining especially (Soraya’s eyes about always shine) to say she hoped I’d have time to meet with her and her husband. She described Chaz as a musician and a man of activism – quiet, but profound. And not quiet when it comes to sound, because Chaz is a musician of sturdy repute. He is a percussionist. He and Soraya are also new parents and the possibility of meeting their new baby was simply too much to pass up.
Turns out, Soraya’s idea was perfectly on time and on the mark. She has been thinking with Chaz as he has pursued establishing what amounts to 15 years or more of recognizing the musical leadership of youth — in particular, youth who wouldn’t have the financial access for developing their musical skills. The result is the vibrant and growing endeavor called Beats Lyrics Leaders.
This is what they say about themselves:
Beats Lyrics Leaders is a series of interactive workshops, residencies, and projects developed to build character and leadership skills through the art of music. Within group and independent scenarios each student gets hands on experience writing, recording, and performing original songs. Mentors co-facilitateartist development techniques and goal setting strategies that empower youth with the ability to succeed, the gift to believe and the inspiration to create.
Chaz Mortimer and his colleagues J Ross Parrelli and Kevin Yamio Winkle make it real. They gain the trust of youth and their families. They listen and listen again. They have respect for the dignity of each young person and her or his music. The three adult musicians build community and welcome the music of the youth participants. The youth then proceed from their own art and wisdom, making music and leading themselves away from drug abuse, suicide and other self-harm that arises from feeling more like a problem than anything else. Leaders they are; every young person in the crowd.
I say, we need them.
Listening to Chaz and Soroya as they described the Beats Lyrics Leaders initiatives was simply a privilege. I always learn from leaders like them who see and empower the leadership in the people with whom they interact. To my mind, that’s the best that leadership can be.
By the way, their baby girl is every bit as bright eyed as her mother. A pure joy in my limited but educated experience. Next to music — maybe even alongside it — there is hardly anything more inspiring than baby gazing. Unless it’s young musicians working their healing leadership.
Anyway, babies become youth and adults. They move through their versions of what we all move through — ease and struggle, joy and strife, comfort and fear, sometimes even terror. But there is music and there can be community – and whether community is reliable or not, the music and activism of these young people is leadership toward community they can count on; the kind Chaz and the youth of Beats Lyrics Leaders create every day.
Be ready to be inspired!