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Music Journeys: Nick D'Andrea & We Amplify Voices

Sep 25, 2020

Credit We Amplify Voices

We Amplify Voices releases new music today. Originally known as the Dick and Jane Project, We Amplify Voices or WAV empowers students through songwriting. The kids come up with the themes and lyrics, while Columbus-area musicians record the songs. 

In this edition of Music Journeys, WAV director Nick D’Andrea shares how some of the songs came together and provides a first-hand account of how the students determine the sound of the finished product. He also takes part in the Fast Five. Thanks for listening.    

Flip The Switch plays...

Flip The Switch opens the new 13-track release from We Amplify Voices. It paved the way for crafting songs virtually during the pandemic according to WAV director Nick D'Andrea.     

"We were in the thick of the shelter in place at that point," D'Andrea recalled of the opening track. "The kids got into the feeling of isolation, the things they were missing, and wrestling with the uncertainty and the surreality of everything happening."

Can I Be Happy plays...

While production certainly had its challenges due to coronavirus, there were some unanticipated benefits beginning with the kids feeling more relaxed in their home environments.   

"There's a comfort level they feel," D'Andrea added. "They're not pulled out of the middle of their school day, and they're able to show up in a real way that's kind of detached from maybe who their school persona is. You are experiencing a more authentic version of the kids in the workshop. The studio process was the highlight of each workshop where the kids take a field trip to the studio. On the day schools were cancelled, we had three different schools scheduled for field trips to the studio that day and were eventually rescheduled online. Having that studio process happen over Zoom was cool because they got a shared screen and could see how the producer works and a more behind the scenes look at how the songs are recorded even more than when they were in the studio." 

The students also challenged musicians when the demo failed to meet their vision of the sound. That's what happened to D'Andrea when he first presented the song I'm Coming Up. 

"It can be a very humbling experience to have a group of middle schoolers just kind of tear you apart," D'Andrea reflected with a laugh. "We completely gutted the song and re-did everything. The message of that was what does success mean to you. In the first version of the song, I went a little too flowery with what they actually felt. They called me out on that. At the end of the day the kids are the producers, and they get to say what the song is about and what it should be. It's our job to get out of the way and give them the creative space to say what they want to say."  

I'm Coming Up plays...

There are songs about social justice and the collection features personal experiences from kids ranging in age from 7 to 19.

All Of Me plays…

It's a rewarding process for D'Andrea and the other musicians but also for the kids.    

"It makes you not take kids' experiences lightly, not just because some of them are intense and beyond what I experienced," A kid from any background can have trauma that's hard to bear. When you acknowledge that, it changes the way you look at everyone because everyone's got something they are struggling with. It teaches compassion. That's what we hope the kids get out of it, but I know that's what the musicians and producers get out of it. Learning that same lesson with the kids." 

"It felt good because I could look at people a different way," one of the student writers said. "If you just see the shell of someone, that's not who they are. That's how you see them. It's what your mindset sets them to."

Living Proof plays…

"Yeah, we know each other more now," another student agreed. 

"Feel empowered," another student suggested of dealing with and sharing one's feelings. "Be brave about it. We were just random kids being brave. They can be brave too,"  

Best Of My Life plays...

D'Andrea, Stephanie Amber, Kashis Keyz, and Soto are among the musicians lending vocals to the songs. D'Andrea expects We Amplify Voices to expand its work to adults and recovery by incorporating more healing and therapy in the workshops. Up next for WAV, collaborating with the Ohio Reformatory For Women on a collection of songs involving women and their children.