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THE SCOOP | Sistema Toronto Students Create A Hip-Hop Single And Learn About The Power Of Music

By Anya Wassenberg on June 10, 2024

L-R: Composer/producer Aaron Manswell (Photo courtesy of the artist); Sistema Toronto student (Photo courtesy of Sistema)
L-R: Composer/producer Aaron Manswell (Photo courtesy of the artist); Sistema Toronto student (Photo courtesy of Sistema)

Sistema Toronto students from the Jane-Finch neighbourhood have been working with artist and educator Aaron Manswell through a series of workshops on hip-hop music. The workshops include the history, stylistic characteristics, and cultural impact of the genre, and draw students into the creative process.

The result is a single produced by the group titled “Earth”. At a panel discussion to wrap up the workshop series, the students talked about the history and impact of hip-hop, and then performed two songs to showcase what they’d learned, including “Earth” and another piece. Both songs will be performed at the end of term concert.

The workshops focus not only on elements of the music, but also the ways in which music can be use for social justice, and creates leaders and thinkers.

“We are so grateful for the opportunity to bring these hip-hop workshops to our students,” says Shawn Earle, CEO of Sistema Toronto. “Celebrating diversity in music is central to Sistema Toronto’s programming, and helps shape our students into socially conscious citizens. These workshops will enrich and broaden our students’ musical skills while also creating a positive change for the community.”

Composer & Producer Aaron Manswell

“My experience has been fulfilling knowing that students of different cultures, at such young ages, were exposed to pedagogical approaches for creating the brilliant art form that is hip-hop music” says artist and workshop instructor Aaron Manswell. “Life lessons were learned while talent was cultivated.”

Aaron Manswell is a native of Toronto, and his compositions have been premiered as well as recorded by ensembles across North America, including the Grand Philharmonic Choir, the Amadeus Choir of Greater Toronto, the Nathaniel Dett Chorale and Choral Arts Initiative. The latter, a choir based in Southern California, recorded his song “Stick With Love” on their 2024 release Tapestry of Becoming. The album debuted at the No. 1 position on the Billboard Traditional Classical Albums chart.

That song also won him the 2022 Grand Philharmonic Choir Canada-wide Composition Contest, and was a runner-up for the 2023 American Choral Directors Association Brock Prize for Student Composers. He was also a featured artist for the Canadian Opera Company’s Showcase Series in 2023.

His work combines elements of classical music, R&B, hip-hop, and gospel music, and he has written for film as well as performance.

Aaron is currently completing his Doctor of Musical Arts in composition at the University of Toronto.

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