Song Keepers, LTD (SKL) grew out of an arts and civic engagement project under the fiscal auspices of Oversoul Theatre Collective and UMass Dartmouth in 2010; by traditional and contemporary First Nations musicians and media artists who recognized a need for high quality arts programming and related activities to engage community people as presenters and audiences. In 2015, the Song Keepers project became it’s own non-profit organization.
Noting the disproportionate school dropout rates and in-school disciplinary actions against native students (especially males), epidemic levels of drug and alcohol abuse, and lack of opportunity for young people interested in music and media arts; the founders of SKL started a project that would:
· Develop, promote and present high quality, regular performances of music, including traditional native, soul, funk, blues, jazz and hip-hop at venues throughout eastern Massachusetts.
· Establish an apprenticeship program that would provide mentoring, training and experiences in the arts for youth from the native community.
· Implement educational programs, seminars and programs that address cultural identity and the various social, political and economic issues affecting the First Nations communities in New England.
· Maintain a roster of affiliated artists and in the process of developing a de facto booking agency for these performers and media producers.
The programming results of these objectives include:
Soul Fountain – recognizing that a substantial portion of the First Nation population is in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse; we created an alcohol-free, quarterly celebratory gathering that features live performances of traditional and contemporary native music, as well as spoken-word presentations for people wishing to lead healthy lifestyles. The gatherings take place in community spaces on Cape Cod and in the Boston area.
SOUL SESSIONS @ Gilda’s Stone Rooster – Gilda’s is a legendary venue for live jazz and blues, located on the Wareham/ Marion town line. Soul Sessions brings performances of live soul, funk and blues on the second Saturday of every month; with the house band The GroovaLottos and a line-up of featured guest artists as featured performers. This provides an opportunity for aspiring soul, blues and jazz singers and musicians to gain experience singing with a live band in front of a live audience.
SKL Sound – This project provides audio production training and experiences for community people wishing to enter music production and sound design as a career. Master producers bring in apprentices to work on recording projects while the apprentices plan and develop production projects of their own. This project works in conjunction with the Cape Cod Media Center in Dennis, MA and Area Twenty-Two’s recording studio in Plymouth, MA. Six of the projects produced through this program have won Urban Music Awards, Silver Arrow Music Awards and have been multi-category top nominees in the Native American Music Awards.
|Eddie Ray Johnson and an aspiring drummer at a workshop|
SKL Media – This is the film and video production version of the SKL Sound project. Apprentices in this program produced the music video for the top ten Indie Blues hit, “Do You Mind…?” by The GroovaLottos, and worked on the documentary “Mashpee Nine” as camera operators, production assistants, and the B unit production team for Smoke Sygnals.
Red Clay Dialogues – a civic dialogue focusing on issues of social, political and economic relevance to the First Nation community in Boston, as well as acclimating people of mixed ancestry into the native community. This project was developed in collaboration with the National Congress of Black American Indians.
SKL In Concert – SKL produces 2-3 large concerts per year, featuring a combination of artists from our roster as well as community and regional artists. These concerts are general fundraisers in support of various activities and efforts by and for the native community, including: substance abuse prevention, academic enrichment programs, food pantries, and wellness programs. These concerts draw 400 – 900 people.
AMP (Artist Mentoring Program) - Provides mentoring, opportunities and experiences primarily for First Nations/ Native American youth, ages 12 – 24, who wish to engage in musical performance and/or audio and video production as a career; through apprenticeships with mostly Native American music and media arts professionals. Activities include: professional development, public performances, community service activities, media production workshops, and press kit development. AMP also trains older and more experienced apprentices to mentor younger artists. Half of the mentors in the program are former apprentices. The majority of our participants and mentors are Mashpee Wampanoag, as well as Narragansett, Pequot, Choctaw, and Cherokee.