Meet The Fellows...

Bobby Williams
Hip Hop Musician
Olympia WA
Fellowship 2018/2017

"Music is a tool to connect you with yourself, and with other people," says Bobby. "I work with youth who have experienced major life challenges -- foster care, homelessness, incarceration -- and show them how music and writing can be an outlet."

Through his own hip hop music, Bobby has performed across the United States, Mexico, and India. After college, he became a foster care case-aide, which is when he founded The Bridge Music Project. "I have always been passionate about song writing and knew it was something that could get our youth engaged. With the help of a colleague, I began hosting weekly songwriting groups for foster kids. Many of them wrote about the traumas they had experienced, and I realized what a powerful coping tool these workshops were."

Since then, The Bridge has grown to serve at-risk youth across the county, helping them write, produce, record, and perform their own original music. The Bridge has also grown in reputation and began receiving referrals from social workers, probation officers, parents, and other advocates.

The results are obvious: the joie de vivre of participants, the standing-room-only community performances, the fact that people repeat sessions. Bobby is respectful of students, and compassionate. Mentorship Through Music is not just the Projectís tagline. Itís Bobbyís way of life.

Teaching philosophy:
"When I work with youth to develop their writing, I want them to connect with their inner voice. I push them to create art they will be proud of. In any workshop I do, there has to be an environment where they feel accepted for who they are. Safe."

How do you produce a vibrant learning environment?
"I set the tone. Every time I lead a group I make sure to bring the right energy. Iím passionate about the project and I believe in our youth. I like to think that shines through and carries over into the way they interact with each other."

How do you foster youth leadership?
"I encourage our participants to mentor each other. Those who have been through the program before guide the newcomers. I also hire youth as staff to help with workshops, concerts, and other events."

How have you evolved as a teacher?
"Over time I have become a more patient and accepting person, and that translates to how I teach. Rather than focusing on a few small things that arenít perfect Iím able to pay attention to the overall mission. If they are having a good time and growing as artists weíre doing what we need to do."

What is an example of a good day teaching kids?
"When I see a young person try something new that was originally intimidating. When they are able to accomplish something they thought they couldnít."

The Bridge Mentorship Through Music
The Bridge at The Thurston County Juvenile Detention Center

(interviewed 2017)

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