College Student and `Til Dawn Alumna
Mentor Artist Austin Willacy, Music
Program: `Til Dawn
As a member of `Til Dawn, Youth in Arts teen a cappella group, Erin Greenwell was passionate about both her schoolwork and her singing. `Til Dawn Director Austin Willacy recalls Erin as “a very talented singer and a deeply grounded and compassionate young woman, highly attuned to the many faces of injustice.”
Through `Til Dawn, Erin participated in a series of quarterly retreats led by Mentor Artist Austin Willacy who directs the program. Many of `Til Dawn’s fans, who enjoy the group’s high energy performances around Marin, do not understand this youth development component of the program. As Austin explains:
I take the group on quarterly retreats each year to strengthen the interpersonal relationships in the group and encourage them to think about the world beyond the halls and walls of their high schools. On each of the retreats we focus on a different theme—the environment, identity, judgment, etc. It allows us the opportunity to connect deeply at a non-musical level.
While in ‘Til Dawn Erin co-organized peace festivals and fundraisers at which ‘Til Dawn and other artists (including Erin’s jazz combo) appeared. Says Austin, “To Erin, making the world a better place is something she does, not just something she talks about.”
After graduating from high school (and `Til Dawn) in 2008, Erin enrolled as a student in Sociology and Music at the University of Puget Sound, and is also a student with the prestigious School of International Training. She is currently in Gulu, Uganda, with the CBO Through Art Keep Smiling, researching how art and music can help abducted children and former child soldiers recover from trauma. She has written a song inspired by abducted children, and she plans to continue her studies in Africa and at home.
Although not yet out of college, Erin has a strong sense that her art will play a continuing role in her future:
I still don’t know what my place in the world should be, but I know that being a part of ‘Til Dawn and learning from Austin will help me find it…I’m so drawn to the use of art and music in helping traumatized children. I’ve been thinking about my experiences in ‘Til Dawn and the power art wields. I know I’m grateful for Austin’s influence in my life and for holding us accountable for what we see in the world.