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Raise Your Voice

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Chantel Mead’s Global Voice Collective empowers youth to use their voice to help those in need.

By Deborah Pardo-Kaplan, Photos by Daria Alexander

Two years ago, Chantel Mead, 41, contemplated the vision for her life while showering in her South Austin home. It was quiet, and her husband and 3-year-old daughter were asleep. For more than 15 years, Mead had trained kids to develop their vocal prowess through private lessons, show choirs and musical theater, but she desired to extend her reach.

During that time of silence and throughout the following weeks, she realized she could go beyond inspiring youth to amplify their own voices by also helping them use their voices to positively impact suffering communities throughout the world. That’s when she founded Global Voice Collective.

“The voice is a very powerful tool for personal growth, empowerment and change,” Mead says.

Global Voice Collective’s key feature is a full-day intensive singing workshop that includes recording an original song and producing a video. The workshop draws Mead’s current students, along with new ones, mostly of middle-school and high-school age. The collective donates 50 percent of proceeds from the song’s downloads and ad revenue from the video to a cause of students’ choosing.

Since the 1970s, famous musicians have recorded songs for charitable causes. One of the earliest of these charity records was a tune by The Beatles’ George Harrison for relief efforts in Bangladesh. Most recently, Lin-Manuel Miranda, star of the beloved musical Hamilton, recorded “Found/Tonight” for the March for Our Lives, which took place on March 24, the same day as the collective’s first workshop.

But Mead’s work through Global Voice Collective focuses equally on nurturing kids’ vocal confidence and encouraging them to contribute positively to society.

“There are a lot of singing programs and choirs, a lot of arts-based programs and social-justice programs,” Mead says, “but fusing the element of singing with empowerment and social action has yet not crossed my radar.”

Mead’s degrees in musical theater, classical voice and music pedagogy serve as the foundation for her teaching. During her workshops, she says she flexes the standard teaching methods to foster inner development and increase student input.

Mead currently teaches 10 voice students, leads summer choir camps and directs a musical at a private school. GVC’s workshops aim to provide an introspective experience for participants.

“It’s much more about catalyzing them to think of their voice as a tool for positive growth for change in their own life,” Mead says, “and for change in the world.”

Global Voice Collective received its nonprofit status in February 2017, and will host three workshops throughout the spring.

Its first workshop took place at One World Theatre in Austin, housed in a Spanish-style villa perched over rolling hills. Mead chose the location because she resonates with the artistic passion of the theater’s co-founders Hartt and Nada Stearns.

“We are hoping to use venues that represent the local arts culture of the town as much as possible,” Mead says.

On the day of the first workshop, 20 kids, ages 9 through 14, sauntered into a large room below the theater. Mead gathered them for morning vocal exercises, and during the session, Mead challenged the kids to relinquish the pressures that arise from competitiveness that society or reality shows can place on vocal talent.

Whether we are singing, speaking, expressing a truth or simply laughing, using our voice is part of the human experience,” Mead says. “We all have a right to use and enjoy it.”

The afternoon was dedicated to discussing cause campaigns, followed by a professional recording of the song and a videotaping enhanced by drone technology. The kids generated dozens of cause ideas, including support for foster kids, refugees and the homeless, but they also pinpointed local organizations.

At the end of all three workshops, GVC’s board of four women will narrow the cause list to three choices based on one that resonates with the collective’s vision. The kids from all the workshops will then vote through text or email.

Recently, Mead has been seeking sponsors to help financially grow Global Voice Collective and underwrite scholarships for participants. Prior to the first workshop, she connected with a former high-school classmate and founder of Austin-based U.S. Lumber Brokers, Benjamin Baker, who has pledged $10,000.

“The mentality is that it was a community that built us, and so, we want to be there for that community,” says Baker, now president of U.S. Lumber Brokers, which also donates to Habitat for Humanity.

Mead’s goals for the future of Global Voice Collective include producing an app and classroom curriculum, starting a youth choir and offering workshops in underserved parts of the world.  

“The eventual goal is to have kids connected from all over the world with one song and one video,” says Caroline Legatt, a board member.

For now, Mead is keeping it local. The third workshop took place April 7 at the Brauntex Theatre in New Braunfels, Texas.

“The long-term success of the organization will be more powerful if we build an incredible home-based foundation of community, of support and of investors,” she says, “and really make ourselves an Austin staple for empowering the voices of youth. And from there, we will reach out in any number of ways.”

 

To learn more about Global Voice Collective visit, globalvoicecollective.org.

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