This weekend, AYA Project celebrated a major milestone with the release of the Kensington CAPA site’s second album, Unmasked. Featuring 7 students in 10th-12th grade, 5 of which were returning members, the album showcases not only amazing talent but also amazing openness, courage and growth. Second-year students Jesus Rivera and Ramsey Rodriguez combine for a breathtaking duet on “Knives in My Back,” while Deliyah Carrasquillo, Madeline Danielle, and Veronica Parks continue their incredible development as unique and powerful vocalists and songwriters. Makai Bey and Jasmine Joseph also make their first appearance on the album, bringing a huge array of gifts and styles to the table. Check out below for some pics from the Album Release Party, check out our donations page, and get yourself a copy of the album soon!
As we begin recording for our second edition of the AYA Project, we want to take a second to highlight one of the most talented artists to grace our program: Kenny Automatic.
Still 5 months from his High School graduation, Kenny was well versed in the Philly rap scene long before we got to know him. Writing since the age of 12 and recording since 14, he cites influence from family and close friends as inspiring him to pursue music and hone his craft.
“Music is everything. It’s everything in my family. My dad did music before way before I was born…so it’s in my bloodstream.”
As a result, since his first performance to a crowd of almost 1,000 at Upper Darby High School, Kenny has made music part of the daily fabric of his life. On his song for AYA, “More,” Kenny gives listeners an up close look at his story, his struggle, and the steps to making his dreams become a reality. While most artists are quick to paint a picture rather than simply provide a photograph, “More,” is nothing but real from the first bar.
“I bottle everything…from my feelings to what I want and what I need, to success, to how long I’ve been doing this….I put all of that together.”
Working with guidance from another local favorite, Blizzy Trill, Kenny describes how this song allowed him to push himself out of his comfort zone and create a different sound. And as an artist already well-versed in multiple genres, this mentorship was an important part of furthering his development.
“He said ‘go out your box, change your flow…If you switch it up a little bit, you have people guessing, and it builds the anticipation.”
“More,” will be hitting the Internet and the airwaves soon. Stay tuned for more AYA artists and watch for Kenny Automatic as his career continues to excel.
“It’s only getting better. I can see it happening. And I can take every step that I learned here, and place it on my next song….Nobody can do the stuff that I do.”
This week, we reached a major milestone: funding for the 2017 edition of Aspiring Young Artists Project has officially been raised- and we will officially be bringing our program to twice as many schools (and students) beginning this January. We could not be more grateful to this year’s donors, or more excited to hear all the beautiful and powerful songs that our students will begin creating very soon. So thank you- to everyone who believed in this Project, believed in the voices of young people, and believed in us. Now more than ever, it is essential that we make sure our youth understand their value, their power, and their right to follow their dreams. Here’s to a great 2017.
Last week, I had the chance to visit our last year’s school, KCAPA, for their back-to-school night. I was headed there after work and it was definitely a long day. When I got there, however, I found that I couldn’t help but smile when I ran into our students from last year and heard the impact that the AYA Project had on them. One student told me excitedly how she had continued to write songs all summer and was finding so much joy in the process. Another told me that her mentor had just reached out to her that week to get together and continue their relationship. And one of our shyest students came to tell me that she was trying out for a solo in her choir for the first time.
None of this is to brag about what “we’ve” done. Truthfully, our program does nothing more than provide our students with the resources and opportunities that every young person deserves. Sadly, budget cuts, standardized tests, and disinvestment in arts education have left many of our youth without those opportunities. In Philadelphia, only 50% of schools have ANY music programming, and almost none offer instruction or support for original songwriting. In our own small way, we are trying to change that dynamic and tell our students that their voices matter and their dreams are within their reach. And based on the words of our students themselves, I really and truly believe that it is working. Thank you all for being a part of this journey and helping to turn dreams into reality (for both me and the students)!!
Pictures from our Album Release Party are in!! A very special thank you to Audrey Amaro of Mama Owl Photography for these incredible shots. And of course, a huge thank you to our students for sharing their songs and their gifts with us. Enjoy!!
June 7th, 2016 marked a big day for our students and all of us here with the AYA Project: it was the official release date for our first album. Featuring students from Kensington CAPA High School, the album is called Expressions…and while we are still waiting to get our photos in from the Album Release Party at the school, we can start by saying that it was an incredible night for everyone involved. Students performed their songs live for an audience of family, friends, mentors and teachers, and each took home copies of the album for their personal use or distribution.
This album stands as a testament to the amazing courage and hard work of these students, the dedication and support of their mentors, and the genuine love and care that has gone into this project from Day 1. If you’d like to hear what we accomplished, visit our SoundCloud (you can search AYA Project Philadelphia) or be in touch about receiving an official copy.
We just wanted to take a few moments to talk about some good times yesterday at KCAPA; where students from various programs in the school are coming together to do amazing things! In this case, it was a Photo Shoot for the AYA Project, ran completely by students from the school’s photography and videography classes. Shout-out to students for their organization, professionalism, and getting some great shots. Check out a few here and get ready for our album release date on June 7th. Can’t wait!
Saturdays April 2nd and April 9th marked a number of amazing firsts for the AYA Project. Across two long days, our six students each stepped into a professional recording studio for the first time, recording some of their first original songs to be contributed to the first ever AYA Project album. And while we cannot deny that the process was stressful, even exhausting at times, we also could not be more proud of what this group of incredible young people accomplished. By the end of each session, feelings of excitement and joy had overtaken any initial anxiety, as students overcame their fears, found their comfort zone, and shared their wonderful voices with the world! As one student put it:
“I didn’t expect this. Like, I didn’t expect us to be in a professional recording studio, recording our own song. You know, I never thought that I would be doing an album. And that’s so awesome.”
“Expressions,” as the album will be called, is set to be released in June and will feature six songs as diverse in style and subject matter as the students who created them. From Soul to R&B to Pop and beyond, it is a collection of beautiful music and the outcome of months of hard work by mentors, staff, and most importantly, the students themselves. In the weeks to come, we’ll be sharing details on how you can get your hands on a copy, as well as information about our album release party. Stay in touch. Peace.
Having students involved in the AYA Project is about more than just helping them to write songs. It’s about forging a relationship with a caring mentor that can help them in so many ways, musical and otherwise. Along those lines, we wanted to share the words of some of our students, who are just now completing the songwriting and recording process for the first time:
Alana, 10th Grade:“we just like, got to know each other and then we started talking about like stuff…real personal like, stuff that bothered us and stuff that happened in our lifetimes. And he’s like ‘well you seem like you have a lot of stuff to say about what happened,’ so he’s like ‘we could write about that.’ And then we started…he told me to think about how I felt and then we started writing the lyrics about how I felt and then it just came together.”
Taylor, 10th Grade:“…I wasn’t really confident about my talent and she made me view that in a different way. Like she…I don’t know how to explain it. She made me think different. She made me think that I am better than what I used to think.”
Both songwriting and mentoring are powerful processes that can support young people in a variety of ways. But when the two are combined as they are here, there are truly special things that can happen. Stay tuned next week for an update on our recording sessions and the release of our first album!