Hear My Voice – January 2017
“By the end of it, I had a completely different perspective on how important our voices are, and how important art is”
“I came out with a deeper drive to keep sharing my story, voice and art”
“I got that even if you don’t have a huge voice, you can still impact people just as much as anyone else could, maybe even more.”
Almost 100% of students said they “strongly agree” to the following statement after participating in any of three cabarets:
- People my age are capable of accomplishing a lot when we work together as a group
- I am now more likely to try and get a group together to work on a project I am passionate about
- I can make my own work and get people to join me if I am passionate about my idea/what we are doing
- Overall take-aways:
- Enjoyment -> Confidence -> transference of confidence to other areas of life and artistic expression
- When given choice in what material is presented, more experience as an artist doesn’t correlate to more confidence performing it nor to more enjoyment
- Working with a group is the most challenging part, particularly when student led
Moments before the start of the one-night only performance, audience members at the Hear My Voice Cabaret heard this shout thundering from behind the curtains as the students put their hands in the circle and did a powerful send-off for the start of their show.
On a winter night in January, 2017 a group of eighteen young performing artists came together under the support and sponsorship of foundry10, to share their talents and share their voices in front of an audience of friends, family, and community members. The material in the concert were songs chosen by the students themselves and performed in a carefully ordered event with students at the helm of the leadership decisions. Taking a student-centered approach to the implementation of this cabaret event, music director Michael Nutting and director Chelsea LeValley, incorporated the student music director, Mitchell Beard, and the student director Lukas Poichbeg in as much of the production process as possible, before, during, and after the performance.
“The Hear My Voice cabaret was an experience like no other. Rather than just being a cabaret showcase featuring the talents of young artists, it was a cabaret showcase that allowed students to express themselves in a safe and respected manner. One of the greatest things about the cabaret was the supportive audience that was able to calm the hearts and minds of the students. Having a supportive audience also allowed the students to tell their stories beyond the elementary level. They were able to use their voices and instruments to explore topics and open up conversations about the world we live in. Working on this cabaret provided me with insights such as how to produce, manage, and direct a small cabaret. The Hear My Voice cabaret allowed me to be a part of a change in our community which takes students from all diversities and walks of life and gives them the opportunity to share their story.” -Lukas Poischbeg, student director
At the performance, complete in bowtie and suspenders, Lukas acted as host, delivering delightfully humorous and informative interludes to introduce or comment on performances. He also gave a rather moving speech towards the end of the program that invited the audience to be silent and listen to the voice within them. The student music director, Mitch, played most of the music in the course of the night, save for a few songs Michael played and a few others where singers wanted to accompany themselves. There were guitars, ukuleles, piano, duets, trios, joke-tellers and the audience was on their feet clapping, wiping tears, and cheering along with these brave performers. In each of the presentations, students told a brief story about why they had chosen this song and story to tell that night. The variety of style of music and delivery as well as the depth of the personal accounts for the importance of the story they chose to sing about all made for an emotional and engaging evening of theater. Several students wrote their own music and most had never performed it for a live audience let alone in a professional theater setting. Other performers also chose songs that challenged them, and that they had always wanted to sing for some personally urgent and emotionally charged purpose, and this venue gave a voice and an audience to these students to share their stories.
Research showed a direct increase in student perception of their ability to create their own work! Both qualitative and quantitative data showed that doing the cabaret increased student confidence and inspired participants to start similar projects like this in the future.
Our research suggested this high level of creative leadership involved in this structure of a program may have led to increased enjoyment and investment not only in their performance but in the tiny community that was formed through the event itself. At the end of the tech day and before a shared meal, students gathered, arms around each other’s shoulders, and spoke words of gratitude into the center of the circle. Some statements that followed included the following:
“I never thought I could feel so safe to share my story today as I do right now with all of you.”
“I am so proud of the songs we’re singing and proud of us for doing this!”
“I didn’t know anyone other than my one friend coming into this, and can I just say, that I’ve felt so welcomed and really a part of a family in this short time. Thanks everybody.”
Theater has a way of drawing people together. Not only because of the rush of adrenaline that comes naturally from standing in front of an audience and performing, but also, in this particular cabaret, students had the added vulnerability of sharing their own stories. Some because it was original work and others because it was material they specifically chose to represent themselves. Often times, performers have costumes and characters to dissolve themselves in, but at the Hear My Voice Cabaret, there was no such facade! The students were playing themselves telling these stories.
This cabaret, like our others, has had a positive effect on our community of students and been a generative launching pad for other start-up ideas. For example, next, the student director, Lukas is stepping out to direct his own cabaret with foundry10 mentorship support. We are excited to continue to expand the ways with which we explore the impact of this model of a night of singing.