02/01/2013 03:44 EST | Updated 04/03/2013 05:12 EDT

Vancouver Bands <i>Sing It Forward</i> For Downtown Eastside Music School


Year two of the Sing It Fwd (#SingItFWD) concert benefitting The St. James Music Academy was a huge success for organizers David Vertesi, singer and bassist for Hey Ocean! , and Ambrosia Humphrey, vice-president of HR at Hootsuite.

I talked with Vertesi about the importance of supporting a music school in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and what it took to put together an all-star lineup of Vancouver musicians including: We Are the City, Aidan Knight, Hannah Georgas, Ryan Guldemond of Mother Mother, Dan Mangan, C.R. Avery, Shad, Yukon Blonde, and Hey Ocean!

Why Sing It Fwd?

We call it passion in practice. We had seen and experienced a growing gap in terms of the cultural and arts vision of the city and the province and one of the many issues that really concerned us was youth arts and opportunities for youth to engage in arts in music specifically. So we created our initiative vision — to create an example of the rippling benefits of the power of connecting drivers in the community to take action, mobilize instead of compartmentalize, and hopefully share the story forward to inspire other people to do the same.

What is something you wished everyone knew about the St. James Music Academy? (SJMA)

How authentic and genuine they are! Ambrosia has worked with a lot of non-profit organizations in the past and this was one of the most transparent and full-hearted we have had the pleasure to work with. They keep their cause grassroots and are very careful not to deviate from their objective — ensuring that through their programs, they are driving social transformation for the next generation in their community. Everyone who works there or with them are aligned unquestionably ... and a lot of fun.

When asking people to get involved in #SingItFWD I heard you asked everyone to "just do what they were good at." Where did that whole idea come from?

When we approached people to take part in #SingItFWD we wanted there to be an equal value proposition for everyone so that everyone walked away full and ready to take action, not drained or disconnected. 

We had done this event the year before and this year a lot of the people came back and asked us to get involved again. When we asked why, they said that they loved giving but they also walked away something that helped them as well — videographers were able to work with artists they wanted exposure to, artists were able to jam with the kids and the videos were great content promotion for them to carry forward. The reciprocity vibe is completely different too because people feel like we are all working together to do something and to help each other as apposed to one group helping another.

What was your goal for this year's #SingItFWD?

Our goal for the event itself is to raise $50,000 for St. James Music Academy after-school programs. We are pretty close now and are hoping to secure some additional donations in the next few weeks.

Our bigger goal is to drive awareness to the importance of youth music education in this city and continue to build relationships to create opportunities. Finally, it is about pushing it forward — mentorships, volunteer opportunities and evangelists to keep this on the forefront of people's agendas. 


What do you hope the students of SJMA get from this event?

So many things. A lot of kids love these bands and I know a lot of the bands participating in #SingItFWD and wanted to make them all feel a part of something powerful, make them feel special, and ultimately hope they have a really great time doing it. At the core of it you just want people to have fun and then realize the greater impact.

What type of people have the biggest influence on your life?

People who lead through example, people that don't go out there and make big statements like "This is what we're going to do everybody"; they say "This is what I do" and truly role model through their actions. I think people gravitate towards that passion and purpose. It's empowering.  

Who are those people?

My parents, my girlfriend Ambrosia, my close friend Shad are very much like that. Rob Dire, who runs Skate for Cancer in Toronto, he's a guy that just does it, he takes matters into his own hands and has something that is important to him and he works on it and it has turned into a whole movement. It's people like that, that have shown me the best way to influence people is to lead by example and I think #SingItFWD does that, we've created this event that showed people that through time, energy and collaboration you can really achieve a lot.

What's next for #SingItFWD?

As much as we are encouraging other people to have a positive experience with #SingItFWD — I think Ambrosia and I ourselves have had a positive experience with #SingItFWDso we're going to keep doing it! Staying focused on our community, on what we know, and trying to help drive success there. We will also continue to find opportunities to challenge others to do the same. There is a lot of focus outward especially with the world being as interconnected as we are but I think you can really strengthen your community, your city, your country and your world by trying to create positive change where you live.

Where can people donate and get further information on #SingItFWD and SJMA?

We are all over the Internet:, Facebook, Twitter and people can donate directly to SJMA online. One hundred per cent of the proceeds go to SJMA and tax receipts are emailed instantly. Simply include "Sing It Fwd" in the tribute portion.