After months of hard work, a group of area youth have something to be proud of.
At a release party Monday night at the United Native Friendship Centre’s (UNFC) Circle of Life building on Mowat Avenue, participants in the “Wake the Youth” program, alongside Maverick Judson, released the music video for their song “Love Like Eagles.”
The music video and recording are the end results of work done by the youth in the program, helped along by Judson and his experience with creating music and other media through his business MJ Interactive.
Judson shared that though the project that became “Wake the Youth” isn’t a UNFC program, it initially started with a call from the centre.
“It started about six or more months ago,” he explained.
“I sat down with a youth leader from the UNFC. They were seeking out something that would get the kids involved in the arts, because they weren’t getting the same participation in their traditional recreational programs.
“He asked me if I had any ideas because I’m kind of involved in that sort of stuff, and have been for a little while, so I came up with the idea of sitting down with the kids and producing a song, doing a song writing workshop and ultimately doing a video for it and doing a massive release across worldwide digital platforms, and really make the kids feel like superstars.”
Rather than just focusing on the musical side of the production, Judson noted they made an effort to give the youth a chance to get involved in whatever most interested them.
“Stage one, we met and kind of filled out some forms and had the kids tell us what they believe their strengths were and where they saw themselves in the program,” he explained.
“So some of the kids maybe didn’t want to sing and didn’t want to be front and centre on the camera, but maybe they wanted to be involved in more of a technical aspect, shooting with the cameras, helping us blow it up on social media, taking pictures.
“Then there were some that did want to be part of the performance and songwriting. We had one meeting where we just had the kids who were on a more artistic level sit down and draw out designs for the album artwork, so they designed that, too.”
The wide-ranging approach to the process allowed for the youth to try their hands at a wide range of activities in hopes that they might get to experience something they hadn’t before and would perhaps inspire them to follow it further.
“I know that there’s kids out there that they think that stuff is interesting, but they’re maybe not interested in performing,” Judson said.
“Maybe they want to just see what happens on the inside . . . It gives them a taste of that, and then at the end of it, it’s a huge confidence enhancer and you can definitely see the light in the kids eyes now at the end of it, that they see, ‘Oh, so this is what we can do.'”
Judson explained that the group had a few songwriting sessions to start the project off, and at first the kids weren’t all sure about how things would proceed.
“From the beginning, I think they were kind of unsure why they were there,” he said.
“Once we did the first songwriting session, they had a few ideas down on the board and I was like, ‘Okay, just give me a few seconds. What if we put this together and this together and we tied all this together like this?’
“Then I turned our instrumental on that we’d produced and I sang it out to them, and then I could see, they all just looked at each other and were like, ‘Wow, we did that,’ and then it was like they were engaged after that.”
As part of the songwriting process, the group incorporated some themes that were important to them on a personal and cultural level.
“The other thing that’s really big is that they also incorporated some culture into the process, too, so you’ll hear that in the lyrics of the song, which is pretty special,” Judson explained.
Once the song was written and recorded, Judson helped the group create a music video to go along with the song, giving them all another chance to experience something new and potentially spark another lifelong passion.
“Once we got to the end of the program, then we did have the kids use the video cameras a little bit,” Judson said.
“We were kind of short on time so we didn’t get to do a whole lot of the storyboarding process, but we scheduled a shoot and we basically had one day to just knock it all out, so the kids got the experience of getting to be a part of a professional video shoot. And that’s pretty much the whole program.”
Now that the video has been released on most of the major digital marketplaces, including YouTube, Spotify, Instagram and iTunes, Judson said he’s hopeful that the program might continue to grow and reach more communities.
“We’ve had some interest from some local First Nations communities already, I think they’re looking into it right now,” he said.
“What I’d really like to do is run a couple of the programs throughout the year and repeat the experience. If you get enough communities involved in it then maybe there would be something that you could do, like maybe a talent show where you showcase all the songs that everybody’s done, or something like that.
“I think it’s something that’s pretty scaleable, I think it’s needed. It’s something a little bit different that’s not really being offered anywhere else, it’s not traditional education but it’s an experience I think is positive and worldly.”
For anyone who is interested in seeing the work that went into creating the song and music video, Judson and the group posted regular updates to social media throughout the process.
“We’ve posted every single day for the last three months of what we were up to,” he said.
“They can follow all that stuff on our social media, we’ve just got an Instagram and Facebook right now, so if they just follow us on there, they can see everything we’ve done right from the get-go.”
For anyone who is interested in the “Wake the Youth” program and potentially bringing it to their community, Judson said they can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The music video can be found on most major media platforms by searching for “Love Like Eagles” by “Wake the Youth.”