CNMN > Projects > Sounds of Home : Collaborative Songwriting with Newcomer Youth

Samantha Tai

See profile

  • Voix
  • Instruments acoustiques
  • Appareils numériques
  • 13 à 18 ans

6 1-hour sessions

  • Éducation
  • Associations communautaires
  • Diversité

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.

Pro­cess :

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 ! »

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