As the new school year kicks off this week, it’s hard not to feel that familiar sense of transition.

But this is not a normal year.

Since the pandemic hit we’ve all been collectively transitioning away from outdated modes of thinking. We’ve been asked to examine our habits, need for interaction and compassion, and place in society more closely—all in a world without face-time, live music, or the usual summer activities. This summer also saw unprecedented civil response to social and racial injustice. If this year has shown us anything, it’s that we need one another. We need the support of our community, and so do Memphis’ young people.

At MMI, we’ve also had to adapt quickly to a new reality. The MMI Works team pivoted to an entirely virtual summer program experience. And while it took careful consideration (and long hours) to pull off, it was rewarding in ways that we couldn’t have imagined. Our In-Schools team has likewise been planning for innovative, virtual music engagement opportunities for students this fall, including ways to be an activist in the arts, virtual field trips, and more. The Grantmaking and Capacity Building team continues to engage partner organizations in new ways to build collaboration, foster sharing of knowledge and resources, and expand our Black arts network across Memphis.

In spite of all the changes, one constant remains: the awe-inspiring creative potential of Memphis’ youth. Time and again, we are blown away by their thoughtful, timely, and frankly, brilliant creative output. To that end, we hope you enjoy this aria submitted by MMI Works alum Aliyah Walker. This piece, which highlights the incredible insights that young people shine on our world, was one of the standout student commissions from our Emergency Relief Fund effort. Aliyah is currently a student at Georgia College and State University, and served as one of our MMI Works Professional Development coaches this summer. Click here to watch the full video!