Ongoing Project:

Singing My Story: Building Capacity with Newcomer Youth Through Songwriting, Recording, and Creative Arts-based Pedagogies

Researchers: Andrea Emberly1, Kate Reid1, Nadeen Abu Shaban1, Mirna El Sabbagh2, Lisa Patterson3, Iman Abdulrazzak4, Esmaeel Abofaker4, Miguel Brito-Lopez4, Doug Friesen5
Affiliation: York University1, COSTI Immigrant Services2, Sound Engineer3, Professional Musician with the the Nai Children’s Choir4, Professional Musician studying at the University of Toronto5
Research Partners: COSTI Immigrant Services, the Nai Children’s Choir
Keywords: music, ethnographic songwriting, songwriting, mentorship, arts-based research, newcomer youth, wellbeing, integration experiences, creative expression


Overview: This study involves newcomer youth in the co-composition and professional recording of five original songs, which will contribute to a full-length album of ten songs composed and recorded by newcomer youth in the Greater Toronto Area. This process will build creative capacity in the youth co-researchers and document their lived experiences through song.

Objective: to investigate how collaborative ethnographic songwriting and music recording mentorship can 1) allow youth co-researchers to reimagine themselves while expressing and documenting their lived experiences related to integration and resettlement in Canada, 2) promote wellbeing and a sense of belonging for youth co-researchers, 3) create possibilities for others, including service providers, to learn about the experiences, perspectives, and emergent identities of newcomer youth, and 4) assist youth co-researchers in building creative capacity and skills in music production.

Research Justification: This study builds upon a pilot project in which three songs are being co-written with youth from the Nai Children’s Choir, a CultureLink Settlement Agency. The pilot project showed that access to musical practices supports newcomer youth’s social, physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.


This study will conduct interviews and songwriting sessions with newcomer youth involved in COSTI programming in the Greater Toronto Area using an arts-based research methodology of collaborative ethnographic songwriting. This mode of inquiry, storytelling, and meaning-making provides both music production and sound engineering mentorship opportunities for newcomer youth, as well as documenting and archiving youth’s lived experiences in song.

The following research questions guide this project:

  1. How might composing, recording, and singing songs about their lived experiences promote wellbeing in newcomer youth?
  2. In collaboration with professional musicians and a music producer/sound engineer, what do newcomer youth have to say—in song—about their lived experiences?
  3. How might receiving mentorship in music and sound production contribute to creative capacity-building in newcomer youth?
  4. How might songs composed by newcomer youth be used as pedagogical tools in various resettlement agencies and teacher education programs across Ontario to better understand and support newcomer youth?

Explore more projects

Go to Top