FREESTYLE Audio program
FREESTYLE audio was a digital music production program held at Hinchinbrook Shire Council’s TYTO from April to July 2014. In partnership with SLQ, TYTO and Hinchinbrook Shire Library held a lyric writing workshop with well-known hip hop artist and arts facilitator Fred Leone.
Table of contents
Donna Prentice, TYTO Manager, Hinchinbrook Shire Council’s cultural centre housing the library, a gallery space, recording studio, function venue and tourist information centre developed FREESTYLE audio in consultation with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. Donna noted that there were a number of young people accessing the public computers to play and share music and to generally hang out on a regular basis.
Given that TYTO houses a recording studio, Donna approached the young people to ask what types of programs would engage them further, as well as build on their interests and skills. From this consultation a digital music production and song writing initiative was developed.
Among the local engagement exercises conducted was an expression of interest advertised in the local paper, a pop up DJ session at one of the local high schools, direct contact with members of the public that had expressed past interest in the Recording Studio, relaying information via the high school liaison officer, direct conversations with the target audience as they used our facility, contacting accessible local Elders and liaising with youth group leaders within the community. The most successful of these involved liaising with youth group leaders in the community.
The project enabled TYTO and Hinchinbrook Shire Library to form and build new relationships within the local community and welcome new audiences.
- Donnna Prentice - TYTO Precinct Manager
- Fred Leone - Musician and Song Writing Facilitator
- Victoria Carless - SLQ Project Officer
State library contributed up to $5, 000 towards the project, which covered project contract staff wages, material costs, SLQ staff travel and catering.
Hinchinbrook Library estimated an in-kind contribution of $3, 240 including staffing hours.
What we did
After talking with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and learning that they were particularly interested in song writing and music production as a way of expressing their views and culture, a suitable workshop facilitator with the right mix of skills and experience was sought.
On the recommendation of the kuril dhgaun team, SLQ’s flagship Indigenous Knowledge Centre, Fred Leone was contracted. A well-respected community leader, with strong Australian Aboriginal, Tongan and South-Sea Islander heritage, Fred and his family come from the Garrawa, Waanyi & Butchella groups. Through his music and body of work Fred focuses on enriching the lives of young people.
Two workshop sessions were held at the library on the 23 and 24 May and an additional workshop at St Teresa’s Catholic College, Abergowrie on 25 May, a non-school day for the boarding students. To confirm interest in the library-based workshop, library staff explored existing community networks including the Youth Pastor from Life Church Ingham, who was leading a Youth Group with Aboriginal and Torres Islander young people.
What we made
The FREESTYLE audio three day song writing workshop resulted in the creation of a new song by young people.
Participants were each given a song writing kits consisting of a notebook, writing materials and a USB on which to record their work.
Importantly, Hinchinbrook Shire Library strengthened existing relationships within their community, including with local schools and organisations for young people.
For Donna Prentice, TYTO Precinct Manager "It provided a positive experience and a way for staff to connect with youth in our community .The value is in the engagement and to be able to use this experience to lead into ongoing sustainable programs to reach the youth market."
The FREESTYLE audio workshop
The young people were invited to attend the first workshop session from 6pm – 9pm on Friday where they participated in getting-to-know-you games, learnt about the facilitator, set their own boundaries for the workshop, undertook vocal and physical warm up activities, learnt the principles of rap writing, selected backing tracks and began composing their own lyrics.
At the Saturday workshop session from 12 noon until 4:30pm, some of the previous evening participants returned, as well as newcomers joining in. A similar format was undertaken, with the participants composing verses in small groups and agreeing a chorus (or ‘hook’ in rap terms). Participants learnt how to record each other in the mobile studio and save and mix tracks, each taking home a copy on USB by the end of the day.
The final workshop session was held at St Teresa’s Catholic College, Abergowrie and followed a similar format to that of the library workshops.
The workshop program enabled participants to enhance their literacy skills through lyric writing, as well as providing positive leadership, an opportunity for self-expression, promoting self-confidence, self-pride and pride in the participants’ community and culture.
For Fred Leone, an award winning musician and the workshop facilitator on this project, this type of project has broad reaching impact for both individuals and communities: “When we are doing these workshops and I see how a young person grows in confidence as we go and when they see what they are capable of making in a few hours in this positive environment…that’s why I do it.”
The FREESTYLE audio song writing workshops achieved the following:
- Sixty participants attended the three day workshop.
- A new song was created by participants.
- Strong connections were fostered with St Teresa’s College, Abergowrie and a local youth organisation.
- Three library and TYTO cultural precinct staff found ways to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in the community in meaningful activities at the library.
An unexpected outcome following the project was a dialogue between St Teresa’s Catholic College and the library about hosting more projects through the school around music, recording and lyric writing. Attendance was a big success measure for this project and for the library the high participation rate was very encouraging.
Having an experienced and engaging facilitator like Fred Leone on board was a definite plus for the project. The groups who attended were quite large and on reflection, it was felt that to build on the project for next time, smaller groups might be good to try. This may enable more time to focus on the song writing aspects and have the literacy segment a little more structured. From a promotional perspective, a YouTube clip may have helped sell the program further to potential participants.
It was also noted that weekend workshops, while catering to the target audience, may increase library staffing costs. This type of program could easily be undertaken in school holiday periods or alternatively the library could approach community groups for support with staffing projects for next time.
Hinchinbrook Library’s Top Five Tips for running a project like FREESTYLE audio
- Find a local Indigenous Elder within the community to facilitate those important community connections.
- Find a local youth mentor to act as the program ambassador to maximise engagement with your target audience.
- Partner with a school or college to reach more participants.
- Have the program run in normal working hours to minimise staffing costs, if your establishment is not open on weekends or later in the evening.
- For future programming, try out free recording apps or programs for participants who are interested in developing their skills and also think about creating “how to” guides for lyric writing for those who want more.
Useful links for libraries
Helensvale Library and Cultural Centre: Jeremy Marou Artist-In-Residence
Gold Coast’s Bleach* Festival Artist-in-Residence (AIR) initiative with Jeremy Marou, Tom Bubsy (Busby Marou) and Dave Dow who worked at the Helensvale Library and Cultural Centre to write and record a song with children from the Helensvale State School.
Bundaberg Libraries’ YouTube channel where you can view three digital stories created by participants of the Forever Stories project, and The Making of Forever Stories video made by Sue Gammon, in the library managed by David Cornwell.
SLQ Welcome Toolkit
An online tool kit developed by SLQ to assist public libraries create a welcoming environment, provide information and develop services for Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples in their communities.
NSLA Working with Community Guidelines
National and State Libraries Australasia Working with Community: Guidelines for collaborative practice between Libraries and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities publication.