Wondering how to get your offspring hooked on music in Australia? Sign them up for Young Warriors

On this blog, my aim is to talk mostly about emerging bands. But I admit – occasionally, I do get carried away and cover news about global stars coming from Down Under. In both cases, however, it’s writing about grown-ups and professional artists who (to a greater or lesser extent, depending on where they are in their journey), know what they’re doing.

But the truth is, every musician of today started somewhere, somehow in their childhood. So it’s time I dedicated this space to grassroots organisations instilling the love of music making and performing in kids.

Today, I give you one of them. Everyone, please give it up for Young Warriors.

PART 114 OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE

Where I come from, there were no such workshops when I was a kid. But, thanks to my open-minded, albeit nonmusical parents and one particular music teacher from my primary school, I was involved in extracurricular, after-school music activities. I also played an instrument for a while and sang in a band (don’t ask – it’s a story for a different occasion). And just so we’re clear – I gave my heart to the New Kids On The Block at the very beginning.

I was 12 when I went to see my first concert. It was a proper arena gig by a rock band that is still one of my favourite acts of all time (not a boy band, mind you). Having been exposed to music and industry news on the radio, MTV and in printed mags (yeah, I’m that old), by the age of 15, I’d compiled a pretty cool collection of records, and developed a somewhat picky taste for heavier music genres.

Trust me, my parents hated it when I was blasting punk and hardcore music in my room. But they must have thought it was better than me hanging out with the kids from the block (pun intended).

Come to think of it now, my music education wasn’t that bad. Most importantly, however, it made me appreciate music’s value in forming a young person’s character and shaping memorable life experiences. That’s why I wish I’d also been able to participate in programs like Young Warriors in my formative years.

The premise here is quite simple: Let’s get young people involved recreationally in making music. The age group is defined as 12- to 17-year-olds, and the program lasts normally for a few weeks. During that time, the aspiring artists get to form a band from scratch, write a song together, record it, prepare for a show by showing up to regular rehearsals, and perform live for friends, family and all other participants.

The good thing is, they don’t need any experience. All the gear is provided for them, too. And they’re supervised and mentored by industry professionals. Among the coaches are well-known musicians, like indie pop singer Amy Shark or Aussie country star Casey Barnes.

The successful pilot program was funded by the Australian Music Association, with the support of the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Foundation, an American organisation that backs music-making initiatives. It was first executed by the Gold Coast City Council that additionally poured funding into the event. That made it possible to secure the venue space, access to recording studios, and music equipment.

The most recent edition (June/July 2022) has just wrapped up on the Gold Coast as well.

The purpose of launching the program wasn’t exclusively related to entertainment. It turns out that playing in a band at a young age can greatly help kids develop their social and problem-solving skills. It might teach them how to focus, be self-disciplined and not give up easily, for instance.

Collective music making also has an enormously positive effect on young people’s mental health. After all, it’s good to play the guitar at home, but it’s always better to do it with or for other people. The notion of acceptance and belonging to a community of like-minded peers often boosts self-esteem, determination, strive for excellence and a healthy competitive spirit. All those characteristics together can ultimately lead to academic success.

Not to mention the development of a sense of aesthetics combined with a general appreciation for culture and performing arts – two essential “side effects” that, undoubtedly, form part of the experience.

When I watched video footage and testimonials from previous editions, in which the participants talk about the program, I noticed that a few things stand out.

Frequently, it is the kids’ first opportunity to touch and play professional instruments in a real studio setting. Moreover, they get to perform on a life-size stage with the whole shebang (“the lights, smoke machines, cool outfits – even the roadies!”). And there’s a live audience in the room. This experience is bound to leave a lasting impression at such a young age.

Many kiddos “keep coming back because it’s just a lot of fun”. And not just once, sometimes they participate three/four times. Some participants also claim they learn much more during the workshops than in their classes at school. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Naturally, there’s a huge difference between being a part of a 5-people band and attending a music lesson with 20+ other students. The attention you get from the tutor or coach in a smaller collective is unrivalled.

The youngsters frequently join the program to build their confidence. When they’re about to walk on stage, you can hear comments about being nervous and unsure of themselves. But that changes completely when the gig is over – the performers seem excited and “so pumped I don’t know if I’ll be able to go to sleep tonight”. It surely helps them learn to control emotions in new circumstances. Especially when you “make some mistakes” during the performance, which happens to musicians in all stages of their careers.

Last but not least, collaboration and teamwork are important takeaways. The youngsters truly seem to dig the idea of being in a band, meeting new people and hanging out with their peers while making music. “It was much better than I expected”, this is how one of the participants described their experience.

But don’t just take my word for it. Hear it directly from the kids:

When education meets music, only good things can happen. So we need more initiatives like Young Warriors to show young generations what making and performing music is all about.

On the one hand, it’s a lot of fun and good energy. But it subtly prepares them for possible, a bit more grown-up scenarios in the future as well. And that’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. Having the perspective today, I can surely confirm that from my early music adventures.

So if your kids show any signs of interest in playing music, why not consider signing them up for Young Warriors? I totally would if I had any offspring. After all, they could end up being the next Amy Shark or Casey Barnes.


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