Sounds of Home: Collaborative Songwriting with Newcomer Youth
Sounds of Home is a collaborative songwriting initiative for refugee and newcomer youth. Over the course of 6 weeks, participants explore the theme of “home” through group music making and songwriting. The three main goals of the project are to:
- Build relationships with and among the youth in order to increase their sense of belonging in their new community.
- Increase a sense of empowerment and agency amongst participants through the skill of songwriting.
- Allow participants to develop a stronger sense of identity through guided self-reflection.
This project is run in collaboration with Heffner Studio, an audio digital production lab by Kitchener Public Library, and a community-based organization that offers resettlement services and support to refugees and newcomers in the Kitchener-Waterloo Region. There is also the possibility for the program to be delivered virtually using Zoom for another video conferencing platform.
Each session includes an icebreaker activity, group music making, and songwriting exercises. Since participants may not speak English as their first language, they are free to write in whatever language they choose.
Week 1: Each person in the group will have the chance to share their name, pronouns, and their favourite song. We’ll listen to the song as a group, and then the sharer will have a chance to talk about why they like it and what the song means to them. These songs are then added to a playlist which is shared with the group. This is a great first icebreaker activity because it gives participants a chance to share something about themselves without requiring them to step too far out of their comfort zones. It also acts as a great jumping off point to talk about qualities that make a good song (i.e., a catchy hook) and to talk about song structure. For example, participants may be asked to identify what the chorus of the song was.
As a group, we’ll create a mind map of things that remind us of home. Participants are encouraged to incorporate their senses and think of places, foods, smells, feelings/emotions, etc. It’s important to note that contributions may not be happy. For example, participants may mention missing home or other complicated circumstances. It’s important to hold space for all of those realities.
Once the mind map is finished, we’ll review what was written and pull out key themes. If meeting in person, this activity works well with a white board and/or sticky notes. If meeting virtually, you can use Jamboard or a similar mind mapping program.
Participants are asked to record at least one sound that reminds them of home and to bring the recording with them to the next session. These will then be incorporated into the final recording of the song.
Week 2: At the start of the session, each participant will have the chance to share their recording(s) and talk about why it reminds them of home. We will review the mind map and key themes from Week 1, then the group will work together to write a 4‑line chorus. This session will also include a short discussion on the importance of rhyme. When the lyrics are finished, the facilitator will ask the group what they feel the emotion or mood of the song is, and then improvise a few different chord progressions and melodies and ask the group to choose which one they like best. Depending on the comfort level and musical experience of the group, participants may also want to contribute chord progressions and melody suggestions. Before the end of the session, a recording of the chorus will be made and shared with the participants so that they can listen to it throughout the week.
Week 3: To start the session, the facilitator will play the chorus and participants will have the chance to suggest changes. Using the prompt, “home is…” participants will work on their own or with a partner to write a 4‑line verse for the song. They will be encouraged to think about their own unique perspective(s) and can draw on themes or ideas from the mind map from Week 1. The facilitator will check in with individuals/groups to offer feedback and guidance. At the end of the session, participants will be encouraged to share what they wrote with the rest of the group.
Week 4: During this session, the facilitator meets with each individual or pair to edit their verse and set it to music. Some of the verses may also be used as a bridge section. During this time, the other participants can continue to work on their verses or on another activity. Once the verses have been finalized, the facilitator will make and share a recording of the song so that participants can listen to it during the week.
Week 5: This session is focused on getting the song ready to record. The facilitator will perform the whole song for the group and participants will have another chance to give feedback or suggest changes. For the rest of the session, we will continue to review the song as a group and finalize the arrangement including what instruments will be used, who will sing what part, etc.
Week 6: In the final session, participants will use the recording studios in Heffner Studio to record their song. The facilitator should record all of their parts before the session in order to maximize the amount of time the participants are recording. Participants will take turns recording their verses or playing instruments. Following the session, the facilitator will mix the song and then send the final version to the participants.
From a participant: “Because of this workshop I got to meet new people and make music, which was something I had never done before. I’m very proud of the song we made together!”Read More +