Young Warriors is a successful band-based program with the aim of getting young people involved recreationally in making music. It’s generally a two-week program, ideal for school holiday periods (but has been tailored to suit alternative durations), and provides aspiring musicians aged 12-19 with the experience of rehearsing, playing in a band, and performing in live gigs. It came out of its bigger brother program Weekend Warriors, an all-ages music program that has been creating bands and long-lasting friendships for over two decades.
With similar aspects to Weekend Warriors, Young Warriors is all about providing professionally supervised and mentored programs, which provide opportunities for youths to participate in live music. Experienced industry people mentor the musicians, through to performance with all equipment provided. Workshops in the past have included guest mentors such as Amy Shark, Bobby Alu, Casey Barnes, Racheal Bostock, and many more.
Through the support and initiative of the Gold Coast City Council and the guidance of Dom Disisto of the Young Warriors, the concept has developed into an excellent model for teens to be able to make music together. “With the support of the Australian Music Association and the NAMM Foundation and members of the industry, the Young Warriors concept has clearly identified its value in a local government setting.”
Dom Disisto who has worked with the Australian Weekend Warriors program from the very beginning is also the Young Warriors facilitator. Dom is the owner of Holden Hill Music in South Australia and had been working with his 700 strong student roster there, placing them into bands and presenting concerts, without knowing it at the time, forming the framework of a Young Warriors-style program.
“Gold Coast Council’s cultural development department has worked on teen music initiatives since the early 2000’s, many of those with me advising and in recent years the Young Warriors concept has honed its elements to a point where the result is fantastic for the kids and families,” says Dom.
“In terms of a model which can engage with young people who have a passion for music, Young Warriors is great,” says Ross Devine of the Gold Coast Council. “We work with them to actually form bands. They can work on original music or covers and stage presence. I think Dom Disisto’s experience with Weekend Warriors … was instrumental. He has some great contacts in the music industry and was able to bring in amazing guest tutors like Amy Shark and Bobby Alu for a songwriting workshop. Dom has a great way of engaging with young people and helping with their confidence and he gives them a go and keeps encouraging them and we see them really blossom in what they can do and how they connect with each other.”
Active music-making has been shown to provide significant benefits to participants. Young people can greatly benefit from making music together in a band. Among the individual benefits that collective music-making provides are confidence, development of a sense of aesthetics, teamwork, problem-solving skills and deep focus, discipline, striving for excellence, leadership, determination, self-worth, perseverance, cooperation and coexistence, competitive spirit, and academic success. These benefits can disseminate to families too and that many studies have revealed that music-making can have benefits to a student’s overall learning and behavior. Being a part of a musical program can make young people develop a heightened sense of self-esteem.
“They learn so much,” says Ross Devine about the Young Warriors program. “The exposure to working with professionals in the music industry and understanding the craft of it, how they are playing their instrument or how they are composing their songs and how they interact with each other… stage presence and how they get ready for the performance, checking their sound levels and that sort of thing. They get to perform on a professional stage with pro instruments, pro sound and lighting in an auditorium space. That’s amazing for them and they also get exposure to recording studios we have onsite as well and can do things in there and they can take away a recording of their stuff. We also work with the local TAFE, so we can discuss where to from here if they are interested in pursuing a career in the music industry. There are options for them locally and we try to package all of that up together. They all start out not knowing each other and they develop friendships with like-minded people. It really is one of those things where you are finding your own tribe. They start as strangers and finish as friends and hopefully, that continues into the future.”
It’s not just entertainment industry knowledge that participants get out of the program either, many discover personal skills that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. For instance in the most recent run of the program, several of the participants possessed different levels of autism and through their time in Young Warriors, were able to break through some social barriers that had previously been a huge issue for them.
“One of the mothers, who is a nurse and carer said that they like to be put in a situation where they have to do things and they like the structure of it,” says Dom. “One of the guys is a really good guitar player. He is one of those people who can listen to a piece of music on a tape and play it back to you and it’s pretty close to the original. It’s amazing to see. He actually never communicated by email or text to anyone before. After this program, he started emailing and texting, something he normally wouldn’t do. And working in a team … it is a really good team-building exercise.”
“That’s a huge life skill that he’s been able to develop and that has come from his core passion for music,” adds Ross. “Sometimes hearing those background stories, you don’t realise when you see people on stage what their life story is. You are blown away by how good some of these young people are then there’s sometimes this additional layer with background challenges that they have overcome to get there, which just makes it that little bit more special. I think the diversity of the people who participate is very special and it is very inclusive. They are all well supported and encouraging of each other and that’s a lovely thing to see, how they have each other’s back. They really celebrate what they are achieving together.”
Legendary Australian guitarist for Skyhooks, The Angels and Rose Tattoo, Bob Spencer has been a long-time advocate of music education and was a mentor in the recent run of Young Warriors on the Gold Coast. Bob has seen firsthand the benefits and joy that participants get out of this program. “The benefits of music are now firmly established by science … better lateral thinking, social skills, problem-solving, relief from depression and pain management,” says Bob. “The music industry has taken an enormous hit over the last two years through Covid. Our industry is really suffering at the moment. What I hope is that by speaking about music and songwriting and recording with these kids, that it provides us with a very healthy music future in Australia”
The Gold Coast council is committed to the Young Warriors program and sees it as a mutually beneficial project. “Live music is very important to the Gold Coast city in terms of not only supporting local talent but attracting other people to the area too,” says Ross enthusiastically. “There’s a very vibrant culture and community and it’s the place to be at the moment with all of the stuff that is happening. Live music and live music venues is something we have our focus on now and into the future. That cultural economy contributes to the liveability of the city.”
Dom Disisto said, “with the example set and model established we look to more local government partners like the Gold Coast City Council, we can confidently promote the Young Warriors program to more local councils into the future with the bigger goal of scaling the program to all states and territories”
For more information about Young Warriors and to register, visit: https://www.youngwarriors.com.au/