Gathering in a classroom that looks no different from the other middle school rooms in the building, 9 students have spent their last five Thursdays from 4:15pm to 5:45pm brainstorming on song lyrics to present at the new Rural MASC-Awesome Arts Festival. From grades 6 – 8, adolescent anticipation with a hint of reluctance fills the air, but jokes are plentiful as they tease each other playfully about everything from their sweaty recess hair to the lack of skills acquired from using fidget spinners. As I settle the youth, we take a look at words that fill pages inside personalized song folders, and I could see the students eyes fill up with surprise, as they notice how the song that they have been working on for the past five weeks now have a format and melody.
As the facilitator of the Original Song workshop, my responsibility is to engage the participants in critical thought about what diversity and inclusion means to them, and how to transfer their thoughts into a full song that can be performed live on stage in front of an audience. The task is not an easy one for students who are not accustomed to living within a diverse community.
The rural township of Kinburn is mainly farm area and long stretches of road, however, with opportunities to share their stories and ideas, the brainstorming sessions have offered the group a means to find ways to speak about how they feel on the topics. Words such as “competition”, “ocean”, “equality”, and “humanity”, are proposed as the students tell me what comes to mind when they think of the terms diversity and inclusion.
A voting process is used to minimize their word web, and after three sessions, the students are using these words to write lyrics on their own to an instrumental song generously supplied by a top hiphop/urban music producer in Ottawa by the name of Nick Giurgevich. Selecting which lyrics will fit the three chorus, two verse song requires delicate decision making; every student feels as though all their lyrics should be in the song, however, with some craftiness from myself, I find a way to use at least two lines from each student’s writing to be a part of the original song. With a catchy melody and a powerful message about judging and competition, the students finally get to see their work come full circle, as they spend the next two sessions rehearsing for their production on Thursday, June 15 at their home school, Stonecrest Elementary.
They’ve created a fabulous song with a powerful message. One that they can be proud to perform and share!
-Jamaal Jackson Rogers