About The Happiness Club
The Happiness Club is a diverse group of 40 Chicago kids who encourage positive values and social change through the creation of original hip-hop and pop music and dance. The Happiness Club's mission is to positively influence kids through the arts, to guide them in making sound decisions and to help them become role models in their communities. This is accomplished by drawing kids in through the music and inspiring them with the lyrics. From Bronzeville and Englewood to Glenview and as far as Algonquin, The Happiness Club represents all levels of income and ethnicities. The Happiness Club kids sing out against drugs, gangs, violence and bullying and say "Yes" to education, tolerance, high self-esteem and peaceful solutions. On any given day at The Happiness Club one can find a microcosm of a perfect world: teenagers helping middle schoolers learn a dance routine; kids working on lyrics for their next song (the subject of which is always based on ideas the kids deem important); and yet another group at the piano doing vocal warm ups and putting the lyrics to music. The Happiness Club offers its members a safe place to collaborate, hone their skills as performers and create and interact with all kinds of people, helping everyone to understand that they are more alike than they are different.
The songwriting process at The Happiness Club is an open forum discussion and brainstorming session. Once a topic is chosen we exchange questions, thoughts, and ideas to identify a theme. We then break into groups to create lyrics and melodies. We come back together to combine the efforts that create The Happiness Club's music each year.
A critical part of getting The Happiness Club message out is to constantly be writing and producing new material, particularly music videos, which appear on YouTube and other social media outlets. After pleading with Chicago youth to “put down the gun,” The Happiness Club wanted to try to understand the differences between the positive/motivated teens of Chicago and the teens that perpetuate the City’s violence. At a recent song writing session, the kids discussed the importance of good parenting and while as a club they agree that parents are vital to personal development, they also had to admit that a lot of people overcome bad situations or even bad parenting and grow into amazingly positive people..sort of "breaking the cycle." They discussed how other cities, countries, and cultures may perceive our country's youth and whether racism still plays a part in the issues today's youth are facing. The idea that "breaking the cycle" in these situations, may be the only action one can take to inspire change led us to the theme of the next Happiness Club song and music video. The kids will write, record and choreograph this new song, as well as shoot a music video.
Where do the kids live?
70% of the kids are growing up in neighborhoods with gangs, poor schools and poverty such as Pilsen, Bronzeville, Englewood, South Shore, Chatham, Garfield Park, Humbolt Park, Roseland and Kenwood. The remainder of the kids in the group live in neighborhoods throughout the city and suburbs including middle class and upper income communities.
At The Happiness Club, we feel it is vital for inner city kids to get to know and work with kids of other cultures and backgrounds and vice versa. This is the best way to teach tolerance and ultimately address the root of the violence that surrounds them.
What have the kids learned? They have learned that they are more alike than they are different: they share the same fears, hopes, dreams and goals, despite where they live or the color of their skin. By and large all children want the same things out of life.
Performing Arts Education:
Members of The Happiness Club receive professional dance and vocal training at weekly rehearsals. In addition, they are given the opportunity to assist in choreographing numbers, writing lyrics, producing music and recording and mixing songs. Given the budget constraints at most inner-city public schools – especially in the arts – there is no way the kids would ever receive this caliber of training or exposure to the arts without The Happiness Club.
Honing their artistic skills in a safe environment and performing for all kinds of audiences (from The White House to The Special Olympics to at-risk schools on Chicago’s South and West sides) fosters high self-esteem, tolerance, and confidence…all key ingredients for a successful future, on and off the stage.
Reaching Kids Outside the Group:
The advantages of being a member are very clear...but how do those 40 kids impact their peers? The hope is that kids in the audience will be drawn in by the entertaining music and dance and inspired by the positive lyrics that have been written by The Happiness Club kids.
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