Kamiak grads using music, holding concert, to help at-risk youth

March 2 hip-hop show raises money for Cocoon House
By Brandon Gustafson | Feb 27, 2019
Courtesy of: Nat Howes “Chin Up Kid” is March 2 at Tony V’s Garage in Everett. Mukilteo artists will be performing, and former Mukilteo student Will Useman designed the show’s poster. Photo courtesy of Nat Howes.

Mukilteo locals will be center stage March 2 for “Chin Up Kid,” a concert that benefits the U-Turn program of Cocoon House, a nonprofit in Everett that serves homeless and at-risk youth in the area.

The show consists of local hip-hop artists, groups and DJs, and proceeds for the concert will help Raphael Echols, known by many simply as “Raph,” finish building a studio at that will allow Cocoon House youth to create their own use music as an artistic outlet.

Echols is Cocoon House’s music and arts coordinator.

Echols has been involved with Cocoon House for five years and, said growing up in Everett, he knew a lot of people who lived at Cocoon House.

“A friend told me they had a job opening, and I jumped at the opportunity,” he said. “Hands down one of the best choices I've made.”

Nat Howes and Joel Sierra are two Kamiak High School graduates involved with the concert, and are looking to make an impact in the local hip-hop scene. Sierra met Echols a few years ago through music.

“Raph’s hands-on with these kids. He gives them opportunities,” Sierra said.

Echols started a free recording studio for at-risk teens and young adults about three years ago.

“The music program didn't exist before, but Cocoon House blessed me with the opportunity to use my musical knowledge to help the kids turn their musical ideas into reality,” he said.

Both Howes and Sierra say they struggled with substance abuse, depression and mental health issues.. Sierra admitted he was arrested at one of the lower points of his life.

Now, the duo finds solace in creating and sharing their music, and are extremely grateful to be a part of this show, along with Josh Seenanden and John Stoltmann, two other Kamiak grads who, with Howes and Sierra, make up the Mukilteo-based group Rainy Road Records.

“When he (Echols) approached the idea to us, we felt it was something we needed to be a part of,” Howes said. “Being from Mukilteo, it’s a blessing. I was blessed to not come from a broken home and to have a place to go everyday, and I know music still meant the world to me. I can only imagine what Raph does means to these kids who don’t have the best resources.”

Sierra said music saved him from a very dark place, and feels some of the kids Echols has worked with through Cocoon House may feel the same way, thanks to Echols’ work.

“Music gives youth the opportunity to be free for that one moment,” he said. “It’s pure freedom. Pure creativity. Pure love.”

Echols said during his time as a residential youth counselor for Cocoon House, he constantly saw kids playing guitars or writing music.

“I was soon able to bring in my personal laptop and help the kids record their songs during the down times of my shifts,” Echols said. “Back then, we would record the songs in the lounge whenever it was available. The organization recognized the need, and soon offered me the opportunity to run the music program full time.

“The studio gives them a safe place to be creative, express themselves and raise their self esteem. It gives the youth a voice.”

Howes said the opportunity to help give more kids the opportunity to have a creative outlet makes being part of the show a no-brainer.

“As kids, we have all these expectations from those surrounding us. Some kids don’t have that support system, and they need this artistic outlet,” Howes said. “The biggest thing for me being involved with this show is it’s music that’s really giving back.”

Sierra said one of his goals with this concert is to also raise awareness to talented hip-hop artists in the area.

“We’re not trying to establish an alpha. Music is competitive,” he said, “but we’re trying to build an open community.”

Howes and Sierra cited big cities like Los Angeles and New York as being hubs for the hip-hop scene, and that most artists who come from the Pacific Northwest end up leaving for bigger opportunities.

“We want to build up where we’re from,” Howes said. “This sort of show is all about how we can come together.”

Sierra says he and Howes resonate with Cocoon House and Echols, as they started their musical journey from basically nothing.

“We built something from the bottom, which is something that Raph and Cocoon House did, too,” Sierra said. “It multiplied quick. He was one kid with a dream and brought it full circle. He’s making Cocoon House a place where dreams don’t stay as dreams.

“Raph, Cocoon House, they’re safe havens for keeping dreams alive for the right reason.”

Additionally, Sierra wants others to be able to make and share music so they can have positive experiences like he’s had.

“I did a show, and this random person came up to me afterwards. He saw a flyer outside and watched the show,” Sierra said. “He looked me in the eye and said, ‘You did amazing. This is something you can do with your life, and I hope you don’t give up on it.’”

The show is Saturday, March 2, at 8 p.m. at Tony V’s Garage in Everett. $10 is the recommended cost of entry.

Those who can’t attend but wish to donate can do so through Cocoonhouse.org.







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