CTOA: Connecting through music amidst a pandemic
The Crescendo Trust of Aotearoa (CTOA) work with young people aged 12-24 years from across Auckland through mentoring programmes in music, film and photography. The programmes connect young people directly with creative industry professionals who are trained to provide bespoke mentorship. CTOA nurtures and supports young people to develop the skills, knowledge, experiences and relationships that matter to them and that will empower them to make positive changes in their lives. Hundreds of young people come to meet and work with their mentors at youth and arts centres across Auckland every week. CTOA’s regular gig event, The Jam Cellar, is an opportunity for young artists to perform, get experience in audio engineering or learn about event management. CTOA also host and support the youth-led Rawkus Radio station.
As Aotearoa moved into lockdown, CTOA staff had to adapt immediately and moved all of their mentoring online. It felt like their work and their connection with the young people was more important than ever. They wanted to help reduce isolation, give hope, focus and structure as well as alleviate fears at a highly uncertain time.
CTOA’s CEO, Marcus Powell, member of Blind Spot and City of Souls, describes how they quickly observed that: “the young people we work with have felt isolated and alone. Through technology and the work of our mentors, we have alleviated the isolation and helped our young people feel connected and safe. Remote educating and mentoring has enabled our community and carried us through these difficult times”.
CTOA’s events team pulled together online Virtual Jam Cellar events, held live every Friday during lockdown. This way they could keep showcasing the talent of CTOA’s rangatahi – broadcasting from their own homes. Dom, CTOA’s Events and Comms Mentor describes how this went beyond providing an online platform for performance: 'We've been running virtual shows and workshops, not just for the chance to upskill and perform, but to make sure the rangatahi feel supported and part of a community.'
The lockdown presented CTOA with the challenge of staying connected with their young people and then keeping them engaged when working remotely. They have found ways to do this by adapting the technologies a lot of people have in their home in creative ways.
“Dave can control the sound levels at his end, while the mentee performs on the other end of the Zoom call. Through Zoom he has the ability to allow the mentee to adjust their own levels and complete their own mixing. All they need is a microphone and a decent WiFi connection,” says Powell.
Dave and CTOA mentee Keegan Tunks, AKA Velveteen Shakes, recorded a song through Zoom called What is it to fall apart. The emerging artists are so inspired and excited by the transformative power of music they don’t want to wait to get out of lockdown to record. According to David Atai, Lead Mentor, ‘What is it to fall apart’ will have listeners shaking their bodies due to its 70’s funk and modern hip-hop production.
Moving their mentoring online has opened up the possibility for CTOA to work with young people anywhere in Aotearoa, something which could potentially carry on beyond the lockdown.
CTOA have also found their wrap around pastoral care to be essential at this time to connect with and get additional support to the young people who, for whatever reason, have found it hard to engage and connect. As David Atai, a Nesian Mystik member and music producer, notes, “It's important for us to stay connected with our young people. Sometimes, something as simple as a virtual chat, is enough to build their morale, during a time where they feel disconnected from their passion.”
While keeping the mentoring and events going online, CTOA has been looking for ways to deal with the financial challenges they face related to Covid-19. They have seen drastic reductions in grant funding options and increased competition for funds. While exploring their options, they have set up an emergency appeal to keep their core services for their youth running.
For an insight of what Lockdown has meant for CTOA’s young artists, you can check out the video Covid 19 Diaries on The Crescendo Trust of Aotearoa’s Facebook page: