The Story of the Spoken Word & Music Album

The spoken word and music collaboration with Triumph Music Academy has attracted a lot of positive attention from our Grand Rapids community. From an interview with Mariano Avila from WGVU’s Mutually Inclusive to spotlight attention from Dustin Dwyer at Michigan Radio, the CYC looks back on the work of our students this year with pride. We wrote an article for The Rapidian detailing the background of the collaboration, as well as the award-winning success of several of the CYC student poems.

We will hold an album-release celebration with Triumph Music Academy on Monday, May 22 at 7 pm. All are welcome to join us in raising a glass at Brewery Vivant to celebrate an incredible year of programming!

CYC students tour Triumph Music Academy.

To preserve the story of our collaboration, we’re including the content of our article below:

What began as a simple brainstorming session between Creative Youth Center (CYC) Program Manager Brianne Carpenter and owner of Triumph Music Academy James Hughes evolved into a full-blown collaboration, and now a full-length music and spoken word album, created by Grand Rapids youth—and it’s receiving a lot of positive attention.

It started when Triumph students wrote music to accompany poems written by CYC students, using the tone of the poems to inspire and shape their songs. Following the collaboration, the CYC and Triumph held a December performance that packed the Wealthy Theater Annex to capacity, leaving only standing room in the audience.

The success of the performance led to the opportunity to record an album of the music and poems at River City Studios. When Michigan Radio’s Dustin Dwyer caught wind of the collaboration between the CYC and Triumph, he decided to follow the story—which is forthcoming this month.

Though the CYC couldn’t have wished for anything better at this point, the good news kept coming. The work of the CYC and one student poem were featured on WGVU’s Mutually Inclusive, a show hosted by Mariano Avila that focuses on organizations and individuals advancing inclusion and equity in our community. In addition, WYCE’s Electric Poetry featured student work in February.

Three of the poems written for the album collaboration took places in the Elementary Division of the Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition, judged by the talented poets Oliver de la Paz and the newest poet laureate of Grand Rapids, Marcel “Fable” Price. Qyliyah’s poem, “Black Women are Our Guardians,” won the second-place prize; Willa’s “I Am” poem took third place; and Ja’Nesha received an Honorable Mention for her poem, “This is Who I Am.”

“We’re immensely proud of these three young women,” Carpenter says, “and of all of the writing CYC students have done this year.”

The winning poems will be published in Voices 2017, the annual publication of Dyer-Ives Poetry, and in Collecting Shadows and Lights: The Book of Explosions VI, the CYC’s forthcoming anthology of student writing that will be launched on Wednesday, May 31 at Wealthy Theatre at 5:00 p.m.

“We’d be remiss not to include a shout-out for one of our weekly program volunteers, Annie Livingston, who also placed in the Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition,” Carpenter adds. “Volunteers like Annie, who are talented writers themselves, are an integral part of what make our programs shine.”

Taking all of the CYC’s success with this collaboration into account, they have decided to celebrate. Along with Triumph, the CYC wishes to extend an open invitation to join them in an Album Release Party at Brewery Vivant on Monday, May 22 at 7 p.m.

“This isn’t just a celebration for the CYC, Triumph Music Academy, and the album,” says Carpenter. “This is a chance for all of Grand Rapids to celebrate beautiful, student-made art.”

Come raise a glass with your fellow Grand Rapidians, and grab your copy of the album (cover art by Reb Roberts of Sanctuary Folk Art) before they sell out.