Four talented `Til Dawn Alumnae – Lilan Kane, Erin Greenwell, Lily Elise and Natalie John are joining forces to share their singing skills with young people. Spearheaded by Lilan and Erin, they have created a summer singing workshop for singers of all levels. Courses will be offered in Novato and Mill Valley. For more information: www.ownthemic.org
Please read on as each of these brilliant young women share:
What Youth In Arts means to us…
Youth In Arts has been an integral part of my life and community for the past eleven years. My family attended the Italian Street Painting Festival annually, my sister the artist, drawing in her foot by foot square, and myself, the singer, staring in awe at the a cappella group on stage. I knew a girl who was already in the group and asked her about the `Til Dawn auditions. Though I did not make it my first go round, I auditioned again the following year and was accepted. Through my experience with ‘Til Dawn, I grew personally, musically, and professionally and was provided with opportunities that prepared me for my career as a music professional. I also received exposure to people without as many opportunities, which admittedly we don’t see very often growing up in Marin. We entertained kids with disabilities, people without homes, and people behind bars. Til Dawn also gave me many professional experiences at a young age including singing at SF City Hall for Mayor Willie Brown, singing on the morning TV news, and one of my first recording experiences on ‘Til Dawn’s CD In Toon.
Til Dawn was a creative sanctuary that allowed me to explore my voice and foster my talent. During my tenure in TD, my parents’ divorced, my sister was at risk (to put it lightly), I was experiencing major voice problems, and in general felt a little lost. The faculty at Youth In Arts, the members of Til Dawn and its director Austin Willacy became my family and supported me. They truly helped me survive some of the hardest times in my life. In 2004, I moved to Boston to explore Berklee College of Music in Boston, and now am back in the Bay Area. I have been so inspired and shaped by the mission of Youth In Arts and am so appreciative of their continued support even though I am no longer in Til Dawn. Now in my 25th year, arts education is coming full circle. I have created Own the Mic to provide more singing opportunities for young people. I am so appreciative to Youth In Arts for supporting me and this program with open arms. I have continued life long friendships with several singers I met through Til Dawn and am so proud to be working along side them this summer. Thank you to the whole Youth In Arts family and my mentor, Austin Willacy.
Lilan Kane is the Director and Co-Founder of Own the Mic. She is working on her debut album and works as a private vocal and piano teacher throughout the Bay Area.
It was during my Freshman year of high school when I became directly involved with Youth in Arts as a member of their astonishing A Cappella group ‘Til Dawn, and I can confidently say that it changed my entire life for the better. During my 3 and a-half years with the group, I didn’t even realize how much I was gaining from such a unique program. At the time, it was just a fun avenue to sing and be a part of the community. I now realize that through ‘Til Dawn, I learned invaluable life lessons, professional musicianship and performance skills, and friendships that will undoubtedly last a lifetime. Monday became my favorite day of the week because I knew that after school, I would be able to go rehearsal to express myself, make meaningful connections, and be able to contribute something to our community because we were given the honor and privilege of bringing art to others.
Being in ‘Til Dawn taught me self-discipline, but it also gave me the rare opportunity to make a positive impact in our community by doing what I loved. Performing in front of young students or recovering patients was the most rewarding because we could see the difference we were making in their lit up faces. I was lucky enough to learn the value of art at a young age, and it has continued to give my life direction and purpose. For this, I will be forever grateful for Youth in Arts and my ‘Til Dawn family.
Erin Greenwell is the Assistant Director and Co-Founder of Own The Mic and is preparing to embark on a year of study abroad in Uganda and Brazil.
Youth In Arts has inspired me since I was seven years old. I can still think back to my first Italian Street Painting Festival where I saw this bubbly group of kids (they didn’t seem like kids at the time) singing and laughing and dancing on stage. I was amazed, and I fell in love. I remember thinking to myself, if they can do it, I can do it…and I was so right. I joined Til Dawn in 2005, I was thirteen and in eighth grade. When I started with the group I had very little stage presence or confidence in my performing abilities. I would just stand there, sing and hope people liked it. In my four years with this group, I learned about my voice, grew into a performer not just a singer, and met dozens of other singers that became like family, I’ll always have their backs. I got to have an experience that very few others get to ever have, without which, I would be a completely different person. Much of this is owed to Austin Willacy, for giving me confidence to be the best that I can be when I needed that support most, and giving the group a chance to inspire a lot of young kids, in the same way that Til Dawn inspired me way back when.
I graduated from the group in 2009 and now attend USC as one of 5 vocalists in the inaugural class of the new Popular Music major. Being here has given me opportunities that I never thought could possibly happen in my first semester of freshman year. I have met and worked with huge industry cats, the crowning moment being my chance to sing with The Steve Miller Band. I now have a band of my own called The Beat Advocate, which is doing really well with the college students, and I have a new family, my Pop Music peers. I really believe that I owe so much of who I am, what I know and what I’ve done to Til Dawn and Youth In Arts. For the experience I was given, I am so thankful.
Lily Elise is the Head Pop Ensemble Instructor at Own The Mic.
In my experience with Youth in Arts, I found that the non-profit’s goodwill and positive effect manifests itself on several levels. Not only does Youth in Arts enrich a part of our community that would otherwise lack an exposure to the arts, but it also enriches the ambitions, the creativity, and the imaginations of the teens involved in volunteering their talents to the community. While singing in ‘Til Dawn, I developed my musical skills and professionalism that prepared me for higher learning in a music conservatory. I also gained insight into the heartwarming fulfillment gained when volunteering my time and artistic gifts to those not fortunate enough to have music and art at their fingertips. A few examples of these groups include teenage girls in juvenile detention, the elderly in assisted living facilities, and people living in homeless shelters. Youth in Arts’ mentorship was an important factor in my development as a teenager, learning about personal responsibilities, professional conduct, and a desire to give back to the community. Plus, all the singers had tons of fun! To this day, seven years after my experience singing with ‘Til Dawn, I have maintained professional musical relationships with several members of the group as well as strong personal friendships that will sustain for years to come.
Natalie John is an Associate Instructor at Own The Mic and is currently in the process of releasing her debut CD “Natalie John Unveiled.”