Youth, Equity & Access

With all-star artists sharing the stage, the spotlight will be on projects supporting equity and access to the arts for local youth.

It’s a night unlike any other: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Ciara and the Seattle Symphony performing together at a concert hosted by Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson. But when the stage lights come up on May 10, they will illuminate more than an all-star cast of artists. The spotlight will be on important work happening across King County in support of greater equity and opportunities for youth, and access to the arts.

The benefit concert grew out of conversations between the artists and organizations about how to come up with creative ways to engage the community in supporting efforts focused on youth, equity and arts access.

"I was fortunate growing up to have access to equipment and opportunities that helped me find my passion in music. We want to do whatever we can to help give young people great opportunities, so they can discover their passions,” explains Ryan Lewis.

Talaya performs her music at MoPOP’s Skychurch during The Residency. (Photo: Amy Pinon / Arts Corps)

Since 2015, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have hosted The Residency — a four-week, intensive hip-hop artist residency — in collaboration with MoPOP and Arts Corps. The Residency brings together 45 young artists from Seattle and the greater King County region to learn about creative songwriting, performance techniques and beat production. The program concludes with a final performance at MoPOP’s Sky Church.

Many teens face a difficult choice when asked to pick between paying for an experiential learning opportunity like The Residency or getting a summer job to support their families. Aiming to directly address these barriers to access, The Residency is open only to students who meet King County’s low-income verification. It also compensates for the four-weeks in the program.

“As our city grows and changes, it's so important for us to be supporting and investing in young people,” says Macklemore. “If we want this generation and the next generation to be healthy, fulfilled and to make progress, then we need to give young people the space and platform to express themselves.” 

One of those young artists is Talaya. “The Residency has given me inspiration, direction, focus and hope for a career in music,” she says. “Before the program I knew music was my passion, but I knew nothing about the industry, the process of creating a project, who to try and connect with, or anything of that matter. Now, I plan on releasing an EP in just a few months almost entirely created by myself.” 

Each year, more than 10,000 students have the opportunity to perform with the orchestra through Link Up: Seattle Symphony.

Music and arts programs, however, teach much more than the skills needed to mix a track or perform an instrument. They also help young people develop confidence and explore their creativity. For approximately 10,000 students each year, one of their first performance experiences come through the Seattle Symphony’s Link Up program and concerts.

A national program of New York’s Carnegie Hall Weill Music Institute, Link Up is a multi-year curriculum that invites students in the third through fifth grades to fully participate in the process of creating and performing music. Taught in collaboration with school staff and by Seattle Symphony teaching artists, it culminates with students singing and playing along with the orchestra at Benaroya Hall.

"The Seattle Symphony shares the joy and inspiration of music with more than 10,000 school children each year who have their first experience making music with the orchestra," says Leslie Jackson Chihuly, Seattle Symphony Board Chair. "We believe arts and music are important not only for their intrinsic beauty, but for their ability to connect us to one another and to our humanity.”

For students like Oliver, a third-grade student from Lawton Elementary, the concerts can inspire confidence in their abilities. “I thought learning to play an instrument was going to be really, really hard, but it turned out to be a lot of fun,” he bubbles. “Now I love playing music with people!”

Tah-jae (right), an aspiring singer and Friends of the Children mentee, meets with Ciara (left) during a Why Not You Foundation visit to the organization.

For all the artists on stage, the concert is about providing opportunities for young people to create, discover and gain confidence in their abilities, and find success, no matter what they choose to do. Those values intersect in Russell and Ciara’s Why Not You Foundation, which is dedicated to motivating, inspiring and empowering kids.

The Why Not You Foundation is committed to supporting a number of organizations that directly impact children’s lives, such as Seattle Children’s Hospital, Strong Against Cancer, Friends of the Children and Ailey Camp. An annual partner of the foundation, Friends of the Children is committed to mentoring students from kindergarten through graduation. This revolutionary approach provides children with a long-term, consistent relationship with a caring adult — one of the single most important factors for helping children succeed.

A new partner for the Why Not You Foundation, Ailey Camp supports a fun-filled, six-week summer day camp where young people ages 11 to 14 learn to dance and explore their creativity, helping youth develop their self-confidence in an atmosphere of warmth, respect and trust.

“At the Why Not You Foundation, we are driven by a vision that one day every child’s needs are met and they have the opportunity to truly thrive,” says Ciara.  “We are proud to partner with and support organizations like Friends of the Children and Ailey Camp that are providing inspiration, guidance and support to the amazing kids they serve.”

Posted on May 10, 2018