BREATHE Academy is an empowering project supported by the Youth Music Trailblazer Fund, helping young people aged 12 to 25 across the UK to explore their identities using beatboxing.
Created by the record-breaking beatboxer, performer and teacher, SK Shlomo, BREATHE Academy was created alongside the UK tour of Shlomo's solo theatre show 'BREATHE'. Exploring their journey with surviving depression, it's an uplifting and joyful celebration of life that won the Edinburgh Fringe Award.
Having always loved making work with and for young people, Shlomo wanted to develop a new project that would fuse the concepts of their 'BREATHE' and the existing Beatbox Academy, a predecessor programme running since 2008.
BREATHE Academy offers an innovative approach to identity exploration for young people through beatboxing - or any other art form they might like to explore. Focused on the importance of youth voice, everything the project does is co-created with the young people. As well as this artistic exploration, participants get to perform on stage with Shlomo during the BREATHE touring show. "It's been such a joy so far," they say.
Having successfully received support from the Youth Music Trailblazer Fund, BREATHE Academy has been able to pilot an online community, BREATHE Connect. "This network of young people, which is across over 20 cities around the UK, are developing a way to connect with each other, share their work, give each other feedback, to network and share opportunities, and build a sense of cohesion," Shlomo explains.
BREATHE Academy is part of SK Shlomo's production company, Nebula Productions, which was created as a response to the lack of understanding they felt within the music industry. "I never felt quite understood by the industry who always wanted to put me into a certain box," they say.
The whole Nebula team is constructed entirely of women, trans, non-binary people, those with lived experience of mental health struggles, are neurodivergent or from the Global Majority. "I think it's really important to create opportunities for people from these marginalised backgrounds that match my own," Shlomo adds.
As well as the digital community, BREATHE Academy is also piloting the ‘BREATHE Icons’ mentorship and awards programme.
Championing the young people who have been involved in the Academy, those shortlisted will receive packages with equipment and gear to help them in their musical careers. The four award winners will each be paired with a one-to-one mentor who matches not just their creative background but also their identity. "So for example, if a young person is disabled, or queer, or from the global majority or from another marginalised background, we want to pair them with an industry Icon who looks like them, sounds like them, and is like them to create those diverse role models that I wished I'd had growing up," Shlomo explains.
Constantly evolving and expanding to put young people front and centre in their own futures, BREATHE Academy is now looking for BREATHE Ambassador leaders. "We noticed that the young people we were working with were teaching each other their techniques, and we were able to offer training so that those most dedicated and passionate young people could then become young leaders and start leading sessions within Beatbox Academy," Shlomo reveals.
"I'm so proud of how that's evolved, because we've produced multiple finalists in the UK Beatbox Championships from artists that started at Beatbox Academy. Young members who show huge levels of passion and commitment can eventually take part in the professional touring shows that Beatbox Academy creates. And that's exactly what we're hoping to be able to achieve in the long term with BREATHE Academy as well, by identifying and training BREATHE Ambassadors who will become young leaders and help to run BREATHE Academy long-term in their local areas."
What's next for BREATHE Academy?
Soon, BREATHE Academy will be announcing a 15 date UK tour, and the inaugural BREATHE Icons Awards ceremony will share the incredible work that their award winners have created with their mentors.
"I'm so proud and excited, and the growing group of young people that we've been working with never cease to delight, surprise, and inspire me with their incredible attitude, their incredible creativity, and their ability to define their identities in such bold and passionate ways," Shlomo says. "The world needs more of this."
The Youth Music Trailblazer Fund is currently open for applications until 12 January 2024. To find out if your project is eligible and to apply, visit: www.youthmusic.org.uk/trailblazer-fund
Youth Music would like to thank Arts Council England for making this fund possible.