Cypher: Write, Record, Perform

Cypher participants in 2019


We are currently half way through our year of Cypher: Write, Record and Perform, in partnership with the Sarah McLachlan School of Music. Under the inspiring leadership of Rup Sidhu and Kimmortal, we’re looking forward to the fifth session. Cypher is made up of a diverse group musicians aged 18-24 from the Lower Mainland, who have shown their commitment to art, their resiliency and their adaptability over the last four months as we’ve navigated working together online to attend workshops, give and receive feedback, and collaborate.

Each session is built around a theme and workshops are designed to focus the group in the development of  specific skills.

Our first meeting in January started off with a workshop led by Ndidi Cascade, who spoke about the History of Hip Hop, and specifically, the history of the local scene in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. Later that session, vocalist Dee got the group working with their bodies as instruments in a Vocal Empowerment workshop. To wrap up the first session, Kimmortal, one of the program’s facilitators shared their process of songwriting with the group, inspiring participants with their work and giving them some ways to work towards building a daily writing practice. This first weekend lifted me right out of the winter doldrums. It was incredible to witness the curiosity and generosity of spirit that everybody brought to the virtual space!

February continued building on songwriting skills with Khari Wendell McClelland, who brought us into his creative world and encouraged the group to listen closely and analytically to musicians who inspire them in order to continuously hone their craft. The rest of the session was spent working one-on-one with Rup and Kimmortal, starting to collaborate, and sharing work with one another.

Cypher participants in 2021


Cypher’s third session focused on how to get your music out there. Jarrett Martineau led two information-packed workshops on the many different facets of the music industry and what resources are available to emerging artists, as well as what to think about and work on when trying to access those resources. This workshop really helped me fill out our already lengthy resource package for participants. It was really interesting listening to someone so adept talk about navigating the complex world of the music industry.

We just wrapped up our fourth session continuing one-on-one and collaborative work, a workshop by Raul Espinoza on Turntable Skills, and a workshop with Tiffany Ayalik on Performance Skills. Raul shared his story of falling in love with hip hop and offered up some amazing albums for the group to check out. His technical know-how on the turntables is astounding and his eagerness to share these skills could make anyone want to get their hands on some records.  Tiffany shared some very frank and pragmatic advice with the group about performing (the act itself, and the before and after). As a performer myself, it was really refreshing to hear her strategies for grounding herself in her craft and how important an artists’ approach (mental and technical preparation), to performance is.

We have one more weekend session coming up at the end of May to continue developing and polishing the work in preparation for a video-recorded showcase, and going into the studio to record some tunes in June. I can’t wait to hear what comes out of all of this. We have truly been gifted with so much knowledge by Rup and Kimmortal, and all of the workshop leaders.

What’s really stood out for me over the last few months has been how deeply committed the youth are to their art and to lifting each other up in the continued building of our local Vancouver music scene.  I believe that programs like this help to build strong and resilient communities.

Sending out big love and thanks to everyone involved in Cypher, including the Sarah McLachlan School of Music and all of our funders!

Special thanks to Creative BC & the province of British Columbia, without whom this important program would not be possible.

Tegan Ceschi-Smith is our Education & Outreach Coordinator. She holds an MA in Music Education, has over 30 years of combined teaching and playing experience, and is interested in & deeply committed to making music in community.