Kids Camp Fuels Creativity

Stern Grove Festival’s Kids Camps build confidence and creativity through music

I am the hope
I am the dream
Of my neighborhood
Listen to me

This past summer, nearly 60 kids participated in Stern Grove Festival’s Kids Camp in Residence at Joseph Lee Recreation Center in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood. Working with local artists, Kids Camp participants created their own electronic beats on iPads, wrote verses to accompany their compositions, and choreographed dance moves.

Over a five-day period, participants who had little to no experience in making music or writing songs created poignant and inspiring works of art. One group crafted a song they titled “Bayview Everyday.” The rap drew inspiration from the change they see taking place in their neighborhood, change that is leaving many Bayview families behind or forcing them out of their community.

“Bayview Everyday”

Born and raised in the Bayview
With family and friends that God gave you
Get my education out here in school
And I be at MLK swimming pool
I go to the park out here in the city
Walk around my neighborhood and never drop a penny
My mom drops me off at Youngblood
I have fun with my friends and start to unplug
I like to play at Joe Lee Park
Then I go home when it gets dark
I woke up in the morning and went to school
After that I went to the pool
They’re building something new by my house
It costs too much so we have to get out
My family moved to Chinatown
But the Bayview is where I get down

Given the space and guidance to find their voices and inspiration, the Kids Campers created pieces that were deeply personal. The creative process was transformative and empowering for both the kids and the instructors.

“What I enjoyed most about the Kids Camp was seeing their eyes light up as they learned to create beats and the pure excitement, elation, and pride they exhibited when they wanted to share what they had done,” notes local artist Kev Choice, who led the beat-making workshops with the Kids Campers. “Having that connection with the kids, exposing them to a new creative outlet, and seeing how it opened up a new world of discovery and seeing their talents blossom was very fulfilling.”

Instructors also included local dancer Jessica Recinos, founder of Rising Rhythm Project, and local poet/spoken word artist Obasi Davis, the 2013 Youth Poet Laureate of Oakland.

A growing body of research indicates that arts education can contribute to positive outcomes in childhood and youth development, both academically and socially. A study by UCLA professor James Catterall, for example, found that socioeconomically disadvantaged students who participated in arts experiences tended to have higher educational achievement than did similar students with no or less involvement with the arts.

But to prove the impact of music and art, you need look no further than the joy and pride on the Kids Campers’ faces as they performed their pieces. All it takes is that first spark of excitement to ignite creative possibilities and energy in young people’s minds. Through free and accessible concerts and education programs like Kids Camp, Stern Grove Festival is that spark.