On a sunny Saturday morning in March, a girl rushed into the basement of an old repurposed office building. Inside the open space, a speaker had already started their presentation while participants sat in a semi-circle facing a large projector screen resting on the brick wall. The topic of the symposium, hosted by Coalition Canada and Youth4Music, was Youth Leadership in Music. That girl was me.
Ever since I’d started performing more at cafés and restaurants around the city, I noticed that many live music venues required performers to be at least 19 years-old and have extensive performance experience. So, I had the idea of hosting a small concert featuring some of my friends who were all, like me, young, upcoming and talented musicians looking for more performance opportunities. I was inspired by another group of teenagers who had hosted their own show in one of the city’s parks. Their show was only one day long and many youth musicians competed for the limited performance spots. At the symposium, I had a chance to talk to the founders of that show and they gave me some advice on how I could start my own show. From there, I began forming a team, making a plan and looking for possible venues.
I was lucky enough to have connections with a new development complex called Downtown Markham, which hosts its own music festival every summer. So, after a few email exchanges, they agreed to give us a three-hour slot every Saturday afternoon in August. They would provide the stage and production crew and we just had to find performers to fill the slots. That’s how the Youth Showcase Concert Series was born.
When I began thinking about the mission for Youth Showcase Concert, I wanted to make it different from any other music festival I knew. A lot of the time, music festivals are grouped by genre, “Toronto Jazz Festival”, “Boots and Hearts”, “Bluesfest”, you get the idea. Our main focuses were on diversity, inclusion, giving back to the community and, of course, featuring youth musicians. So, we opened up applications to all artists and bands under the age of 25 from any genre. We had submissions from many talented performers including eight-piece funk bands, country singer-songwriters, rappers and even a DJ. In total, we received over sixty submissions and had to narrow it down to twenty. When selecting the performers, we particularly looked for acts that performed original music, were female, or represented a variety of different ethnic backgrounds. For me, it was so important to create a diverse and representative lineup because the current music industry is still predominantly male, especially in certain genres and roles such as producers. The music industry should reflect our society as a whole and therefore, should feature a wide variety of people from different backgrounds. As an Asian, female producer myself, it was so important for me to showcase the diverse new wave of young talent in the Greater Toronto Area. I also hoped that through the festival, younger musicians could see themselves represented in the music industry and that they belong here. There has been a longstanding notion that art is elitist but music is a universal language and therefore, it should be universally represented.
Whenever I tell people that I founded a music festival, they’re always very surprised by the accomplishments we’ve had. But it was a struggle at first and a huge learning curve. Since the team was mainly run by my best friend, Natasha Steele, and I, we had to manage everything and everyone from the volunteers to the performers. There were a lot of times when I was running around trying to get everything sorted while also trying to listen to each performance. It can get quite overwhelming but I always keep a calm mind so that I can focus and remember everything that I need to do. There were also times when we didn’t know how many people would show up to watch the show and we stood in the burning sun handing out brochures to people who walked by, hoping they would stay and watch the performances. But the most rewarding thing is when everything falls into place and I can see the audience enjoying the performances.
On May 1st, we opened submissions for our 2020 Summer Concert Series which will be held in August. However, due to COVID-19 we are still unsure of whether we will be able to host live, in-person shows or if we’ll have to livestream it. Regardless, we want to continue to bring the community together through music and showcase youth talents so we’ve decided to continue the festival as planned. For more information about the festival, you can visit https://www.youthshowcaseconcert.com/.
This was a guest post by Senaida Ng.
Toronto-born, SENAIDA, is a classically-trained pianist, singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist. She has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City, Roy Thomson Hall, Nathan Phillips Square, Koerner Hall, Indie Week, the Burdock and the Downtown Markham Music Festival. She is not confined by any genre, writing and performing indie pop, alternative, classical, jazz, and electronic music. SENAIDA has released three singles and is currently working on her debut EP, First Love. She also has a music and bubble tea review blog called Tea n’ Tunes.
WANT TO WRITE FOR US?