"It all started with a pencil and some yellow lined paper," says Kielle Deanda of hip-hop/soul collective Profound Myndz. "Mr. Phill forced me to sit next to him and write a song. At first he helped me come up with a concept. He said, ‘What do you think of when you hear this beat?' And we started writing down words, and ‘seasons' came out."
Mr. Phill is Phill Thompson, program coordinator of the YMCA Lighthouse Project. The after-school multimedia arts program started at Westinghouse High School in 2007, and since then more than 300 teen-age students have participated. Since its start, the program has grown to include visual arts, music production, photo and video production, a step team, a theater project and even an urban garden.
Profound Myndz is one of the program's current groups. Deanda, now 17, started the program as a ninth-grader. In her song "In Good Time," she sings, "seasons change."
"I like to write about inspirational stuff sometimes, 'cause it's easier for me to write when I'm vaguely talking about how I've gotten through tough situations. So, I was just thinking about how to encourage people. That's why I was saying ‘seasons change.' [No matter what you're going through,] you can make it through it."
That was her first solo song — helped along by Thompson's encouragement.
"I critique them like I would critique an adult," says Thompson. "In my opinion, we have some of the most talented people in the city here. Their songs should be able to stack up against anybody else's."
The program serves young people from neighborhoods throughout the eastern part of the city. It also provides transportation and dinner for the kids.
"It's a program that utilizes the multimedia arts to advance three goals," explains program director James Armstead Brown. "And that's to give kids a creative outlet for their expression, to build technical skills that will help lead to successful career paths, and to help kids connect to the community."
Profound Myndz is currently in a competition for a chance to perform at the YMCA National General Assembly in Philadelphia. Also, the Lighthouse Project is raising funds for Pittsburgh to Prague, a project that will cover the expenses for the group to perform at a conference in Prague.
More on the Lighthouse Project: www.facebook.com/ymcalighthouse