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Making music provides emotional outlet during COVID separation

Aerial view of Kuhlman stadium with water tower in foreground.
Making music provides emotional outlet during COVID separation

Being in distanced learning for a prolonged period was challenging for many students and that was the case for Keya, a third grader at Highlands Elementary with a passion for music. She is often described as the kid who has a constant soundtrack floating around her, singing whenever and wherever she could. 

For Keya’s mom, Ana Munro, making music is much more than just fun. Keya is Yupik, and music is how this indigenous peoples pass knowledge and stories down through generations. They view song as a “gift to the universe” and a way of bringing community together. “Keya’s African American grandfather is a gospel singer, so music is definitely a huge part of her identity,” Munro said. “I’m glad she is following in her cultural roots.”

Not able to connect and socialize with friends, peers, and teachers, Keya struggled to maintain her positive attitude. So Munro connected with Kourtnee Baukol, the district’s American Indian Program Coordinator, to try to help Keya overcome this challenging period. Baukol introduced them to friends who work with Ruck B Media, a creative production company specializing in the works of diverse artists. Over the past few months, Keya has been working with Dahlia Jones to write songs, enhance her creativity, and build confidence in her voice.

“Most days she would come to me with a song idea or a few lyrics and we would take them and expand them into a full song. Some days, if she felt tired or was having an off day, we would write about those feelings,” said Jones. “I believe that music can help a lot with those big feelings that kids have and it can help them articulate them in a different kind of way.”

Keya’s favorite part of making music is the “funness and silliness I can create.” Since she’s been working with Dahlia, Keya not only has returned to singing, but is doing it even more than before. “I’ve seen a much, much happier and confident kid since music came back into her world!” said Munro. “I am so thankful to the very caring staff at Highlands and Kourtnee Baukol.”

Check out Keya’s song, Broadway.