Hey Ocean! July Talk, k-os Play #SingItFwd for At-Risk Kids

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“Music changes lives. Pass it on” is the slogan of the fourth annual #SingItFwd fundraising concert to benefit Vancouver’s Saint James Music Academy for at-risk children, but it’s also a bigger call to action for people to become positively involved in their communities.

“There are incredible initiatives all over this country and all over the world where people are working in their own communities, and it’s important for people to look around and see the work that’s being done and see if they can help,” Hey Ocean! singer/bassist David Vertesi tells Samaritanmag.

Vertesi is doing his part along with his wife, HootSuite Media Inc. talent vice-president Ambrosia Humphrey, by again organizing #SingItFwd and donating all of the proceeds to Saint James Music Academy. The concert at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre has raised more than $100,000 over the past three years with performances by some 30 acts, including The Sheepdogs, Hannah Georgas, Shad, Dan Mangan, Yukon Blonde and Said The Whale.

The lineup for the concert on Jan. 8 will feature k-os, Hey Ocean!, July Talk, Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer, Bear Mountain, Dear Rouge, Jordan Klassen and Bend Sinister playing three-song acoustic sets with support from the kids’ choir from Saint James Music Academy. Expect unique collaborations and, to avoid awkward gaps during tear-down and set-up between performances, videos featuring the artists and students interacting at the academy.

Saint James Music Academy offers high-quality music instruction in strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion, choir and orchestra to children living in the worst parts of Vancouver’s downtown east side at no cost to students’ families. The program is run by executive director Kathryn Walker and caters to just under 200 children five days a week. It also includes daily meals, ongoing social support and music therapy.

The academy is based at St. James’ Anglican Church and it’s hoped that it can secure an improved and permanent spot there or find a new location to better accommodate the students and reinforce its role as a community centre.

“This is a place where parents and kids can come,” says Vertesi. “It’s more than just a school where kids go and take lessons.”

Vertesi and his wife were introduced to Saint James Music Academy by a friend who volunteers there, and he said they were immediately enchanted. “It almost chose us,” he says. “It’s just an incredible school. I think we really connected with it and its message of social change and community empowerment through music.”

Vertesi is involved with most of the video shoots involving the students and the artists performing at #SingItFwd, and he’s seen personal growth in many of the youngsters over the past few years. While people who attend the concerts or recitals presented by the academy may be impressed by the talent displayed by the students on stage, he feels it even more because he’s heard the children’s often heartbreaking stories.

“They do a lot of outreach into the community and specifically target kids who are at risk and in difficult home situations,” says Vertesi, who points out the transformations he’s witnessed in the kids as they acquire increased self-confidence and a feeling of being appreciated, which they don’t often get, through collaborating with their friends and positive role models.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Vertesi said there were about 100 unsold tickets for Thursday’s all-ages concert at the 1,250-person capacity Vogue Theatre. He anticipates another sellout that will raise $40,000 and push the four-year total for #SingItFwd to $150,000. Donations will be accepted at the show and can also be made to the registered charity online.

Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.