SixTwelve is about providing opportunities for people both young and old to learn skills in the arts, music, cooking, gardening and sustainable local living. In this creator conversation, founder Amy Young talks about the story behind their fundraising album, Building Together.
How did the Building Together album project come about?
When the COVID-19 pandemic came to Oklahoma in mid-March, SixTwelve closed its doors for six months. Like many educational organizations, we transitioned our PreK and After School programming to an online format and completed the year. We also canceled all of our invoices and didn’t take in any funds during that time. Luckily, we had just held our major yearly Mardi Gras Ball fundraiser so we were able to keep everyone employed and with their benefits until July. Then we had to make some changes. We lost one employee and another went part-time. This helped us to keep going but it was brutal.
Another program that we had planned was to hold our summer 2020 residency in Savannah, Georgia with Jake Ingalls and Daniel Quinlan of Spaceface and Penny Pitchlynn of LABRYS and BRONCHO. They were set to record an album and to create a performance for the community in Savannah but that was also brought to a halt by the pandemic.
Ironically, earlier in the year, I had visited Penny at Blackwatch Studios while she was working on a recording for her LABRYS project and during that time, she asked, “Have you ever thought about putting together a fundraising album for SixTwelve?” That’s where the seed was planted. Flash forward to April and Daniel Quinlan said, “Maybe we could create an album out of submissions made by people or bands related to Spaceface and LABRYS.” Even then I said, “Let’s wait and see what happens with this pandemic.” Famous last words! In June we finally decided that we would pursue the idea of creating an album and in July we meet Ray Smith, aka Ray June (stage name), of Swat Meet Inc. thanks to our friend, Dezz Yearby, who introduced us, and it was just a perfect match.
The protests and uprising had begun and through the experience of marching and reading and meditating on what we could do to support the cause, we became hyper-intentional about who we wanted to be involved in this album. We wanted it to be an example of what it could look and sound like when communities from all over Oklahoma City came together for one purpose and it became of the most beautiful projects I’ve ever been a part of. We featured musicians and bands from all over the metro, from Tulsa, Tennessee, Memphis and from Ohio and students from both SixTwelve and Swat Meet Inc submitted songs for the album. Our committee of Jake Ingalls, Daniel Quinlan, Penny Pitchlynn, Ray June, and Dezz Yearby created something magical and we really did “build together.” And every meeting took place virtually! We didn’t even meet Ray in person until the fall!
This album project is not only bringing in funds for both non-profits, but also provided virtual programming for students as we held songwriting sessions with Jake and Daniel for any student that submitted a song, and provided a little income for the musicians and bands that recorded those songs. We paid each recording group for their time and the music they contributed. It was a multilayered experience and we hope that it was as helpful for others as it has been for us.
You can find the album on Bandcamp to purchase a vinyl copy or a digital copy (both $25). If you order an album, you get the digital copy for free! And it is now streaming on Spotify, Apple Music and more. For more info, you can find a link on the homepage of our website, www.sixtwelve.org. All funds raised are equally split with Swat Meet Inc.
Use only seven words to describe the album, Building Together.
Uplifting, Encouraging, Unifying, Childlike, Exciting, Moving, Inspiring
What were some challenges you faced when making the album?
Group projects hold the potential to be a challenge during the most normal of times, but we didn’t really face any big challenges related to the fact that we were creating during a pandemic when no one could meet outside of their own home. The biggest challenge I observed from anyone during this time, even outside of our project, was the brain fog we have all experienced due to a layer of fear covering everything we’ve done since March. People aren’t operating at their full speed/capacity this year. I imagine that recognizing that and adjusting expectations was the work of most bosses and leaders, especially earlier in the year. The musicians and bands submitted songs quickly after they were assigned. Jarod Evans and Blackwatch Studios in Norman mixed and mastered the whole album in less than two weeks. Everyone from the kids to the bands to the residents were amazing. Just amazing!!!! Everyone gave it all that they had and the result is a beautiful collection of songs.
What behind the scenes stories do you want to share about the album?
My favorite part of putting this album together are the friendships that I’ve made with the residents and with Ray from Swat Meet Inc. I believe that we have established a friendship and partnership that will continue beyond this year and the life of the album. I admire Ray for what he has built and for what he is doing for the community and I believe we will work together again. I equally respect Jake, Daniel and Penny and am so grateful for what we’ve been able to do. I hope we’re in each others’ lives for the rest of our days. Meeting on Zoom on Friday mornings was the highlight of each week and kept me in such a positive mental place during a very scary time.
What would you like to see people build together?
I would like to see people build community, bridges and opportunities for each other. I’d like to see people build more friendships and support systems for the kids and adults in all parts of Oklahoma City. SixTwelve’s mission is ironically, “Sharing Tools to Build a Better Community.” I just want everyone to have the same opportunities, protections and privileges all over OKC and the world. We’re going to have to build an education system and city policies that focus on those things in order to get it done.
What’s something positive you try to keep in mind or do when negativity surrounds you?
I remind myself of all of the support and friendship I have all around me at almost all times. It’s so hard to do that when you’re afraid, but someone usually calls or shows up to help when I can’t quite seem to pull myself up out of that negative headspace on my own. And at the very least, I tell myself that I am so lucky to be having a human experience in a human body that can feel all of the emotions and feelings that humans do. Then I remind myself that I can trust my friends, employees, residents, board and family, and that I can trust myself to come up with solutions. Sometimes I just need a break or a nap to get there. I’ve said a lot of mantras like, “I’m not alone in this. I’m not alone in this. I’m not alone in this.”
I think it’s really important to take breaks, so as not to get overwhelmed, especially during this time, and to be patient and gentle with ourselves. There have been days that I thought I wasn’t going to be able to keep SixTwelve going. There have been days when it was just too much and I started having conversations inside my head with people that I cringed at the thought of letting down by having to let them go. And then I remember that we’ve made it this far so new solutions were on their way.
What places and activities do you like to visit and do in Oklahoma for the winter holidays?
Usually, I go to our family’s cabin in Southeastern Oklahoma over the holidays or to my hometown of Ardmore, but for holiday fun, I’ve always loved looking at Christmas lights. Chickasha is awesome and Ardmore has a great light display to drive through too! I also have loved going to the Popup Shops downtown and Christmas shopping at dna galleries, Betsy King Shoes, and directly from artists and musicians that I know. I think supporting small businesses, artists and musicians is more important this year than ever.
What else would you like people to know about yourself and the music?
I just want people to know that I care about them and our community. It’s important that we feel like someone cares, especially now. Maybe someday I’ll get back to singing and will make an album of my own music, but that’s down the road.