Philly Youth Music Fest on WXPN Local

“A lot of young people in Philadelphia want to be recognized as artists,” says Skylah Blackwell. “And this is a good opportunity for them to be seen, especially onstage.”

Blackwell is talking about the inaugural Philly Youth Music Fest, happening on Saturday, July 13th at Manayunk’s Venice Island Performing Arts Center. The free, open-to-the-public event runs from noon to 6 p.m. and will feature open mics outside with showcase performances on the stage inside, spotlighting an array of nonprofits working with Philadelphia youth who want to express themselves through the creative arts. A group of student artists and organizers participating in the festival paid a visit to WXPN Local this week to tell us what’s in store.

“Students will be involved in every aspect of this festival,” explains Aisha Winfield, executive director of the Blue Babe Foundation, who will be recording performances and interviews to create a podcast about the event. The video program Five Shorts will be documenting the event visually as well. Performers will take the stage from groups like Rock To The Future, Beyond The Bars, Musicopia, and the production-and-entrepreneurship program FamFrequency.

“[Performing] helps build confidence,” says Don Bullock, aka mukuprod, a student artist with FamFrequency. “There’s a lot of artists out there who make music and aren’t really confident in their skills, but doing this will help boost their confidence and help get were they want to be.”

Taron Smith, a student with the Beyond The Bars program, agrees. “Once people actually get on that stage and show others what they can do, they’re like ‘wow, I can actually do this.’ And then their peers, even maybe people older than them, and really young, they’re like ‘wow, I can aspire to do this, too.’ I think it’s important for everyone to get that opportunity to put themselves out there and build their own platform.”


According to Matthew Kerr, co-executive director of Beyond The Bars, “There’s so many amazing community-based music orgs in the city, and we’ve all kind of informally worked together and collaborated. And we knew the kind of bad rep that so many of our city’s young people get constantly, and we wanted to have a day of celebration of looking at all the amazing young leaders in the city, as well as celebrating all the amazing orgs that are doing so much different beautiful work.” Kerr sees this event not as a one-off, but something that will hopefully build into an annual celebration of the city’s youth and the organizations nurturing their talent.

Winfield points out that for many of these students, the Philly Youth Music Festival will be their first time performing onstage in a formal setting. “To bring each of our organizations, and to bring more students together, they get to see and experience what one another are creating on a larger platform. The collaboration has been a long time coming, we see each other in passing a lot and say we want to do things, but this is an actual opportunity to bring it together and to really lift up the young people so they get celebrated on a large stage.”

In addition to the previously mentioned groups, organizations participating in Philly Youth Music Fest include Project 440, We Love Philly, Village of Arts and Humanities, YEAH Philly, Day One Not Day Two, MADBEATZ, Ride Free, Philly Sound Exchange, and ABRO. For more information on the event, head to Listen to the group’s full interview on WXPN Local in the player above; it closes with an untitled, student-composed song by Beyond The Bars student Xavis Fauntleroy, aka Gweeby.