Catching songs of the youth

3 minutes read
Posted 30 November, 2023
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SongCatcher and Youthtown have joined forces to release an EP that features some young talent of the region. Jackie Bristow is the creator and founder of SongCatcher, a programme that teaches children and early teens to write songs, express themselves through singing and songwriting, and mentors artist development.

Bristow’s been mentoring a host of young talent from the Central Lakes District – six of those feature on the EP singing their own songs and writing songs that connect with their peers.

“I’m a singer/songwriter and I’ve had a life in music,” Bristow says. “I’ve been a professional songwriter and releasing music for 20 years. I lived in America for 17 years and I came home to New Zealand on tour and visiting my family, and then I got locked down here with Covid.”

Her tours were cancelled and she was offered a house in Queenstown just before she lost her Green Card. She then met Bill Moran, chair of Turn Up the Music, when she played a fundraiser for them. He asked her to do a two-day songwriting workshop, where she met a group of young girls.

“That group ended up becoming the start of a pilot that we ran for two 10-week periods, and through that we wrote all these amazing kids’ songs and we released an EP called Jackie B and the Mini Band, of kids’ music collaborated with all those children. It was supported by New Zealand On Air, which was great. It was such an organic thing and we realised, wow, this is so special. It’s so good for wellbeing, it’s so good for creativity and it’s so good for community and connections. Bill connected me with Youthtown, who are in Auckland, and they became my supporter and partner. So we’ve been running this long pilot for two years now.”

At this stage, approximately 60 children and teens have been through and some that were involved right from the start have been included on the EP. As a result of the success of the Wānaka and Queenstown-based programme, Jackie and Youthtown have launched it in Parliament with the goal to go national with more teachers.

Bristow was involved in all six tracks on this EP, which include 'Like A Girl' by Taylah Miller, who says: “This song is about being proud of being a girl, even though I kick, throw or run like a girl, that is because I am a girl and I shouldn’t be judged for that.” Freya Jeffery’s 'Reach The Highest Peak' helped her to navigate friendship difficulties by writing about her experiences and turning them into this song. Track three is 'New Zealand is My Home' by Saige Galloway, who was inspired to write this song about the Kepler track and its beauty.

The final three tracks include 'Letter' by Mala Januszkiewicz who says: “I wrote 'Letter' when I was 14 years old and I am now 16. When writing the song I took the idea of romance in movies. I love that when you listen to 'Letter' you can see the way I perceived love at that age and as I continue to develop as a songwriter and a person the way I talk about it changes.” Ivy McKenzie sings 'Upbeat', which she describes as a song about staying positive in very dark times and that someone special has always got your back. Wrapping up the EP is 'Summer Time' by Addisyn Miller, who drew inspiration from her holidays in the Marlborough Sounds for this sparkling summery vibe.

“I’m really proud of the girls, really proud of the songs and really proud of the programme – it’s special and quite unique. It’s quite fresh, really, and it’s not a music school, it’s a programme that’s really focused on songwriting. There was no auditions, you don’t even have to sing, you just have to have an interest in music, like to sing, and want to brainstorm words and writing. It’s a very safe environment and no idea is a bad idea. It’s not intimidating, it’s very nurturing and a lot of fun,” Bristow says.

SongCatcher/ Youthtown EP Volume 1 is available now on a number of different programmes including Soundcloud, Spotify and Apple Music. Head to to listen to the EP and go to to learn more about the SongCatcher programme. Signup for next year in Queenstown and Wānaka are now open on the website.


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