Queens Youth Music Festival shines a light on borough’s emerging talent

Grant Knoche is one of the headliners for the Queens Youth Music Festival.
Courtesy of Twitter
By Naeisha Rose

Prototype Music, a Jamaica-based youth music development and event production company, is having its third annual festival at St. John’s University next month in Fresh Meadows, where large crowds are expected.

Z100 personality Mo Bounce will host the Queens Youth Music Festival at the university, located at 8000 Utopia Parkway. The headliner is Casey Simpson, a singer and star of the Nickelodeon show “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn.” Other headliners include Lil Keys, a rapper being mentored by music producer Jermaine Dupri on the reality show “The Rap Game,” Sawyer Fredericks, last year’s winner of NBC’s “The Voice,” and Matt Martinez of Kidz Bop, a group which performs kid-friendly versions of hit pop songs.

The June 9 event is the brainchild of lifelong Queens natives Rodney Hill, an actor from Jamaica, and Aleeia Abraham, a vocalist from Springfield Gardens. Together, the duo use their skills in writing, producing, recording and choreography to mentor young people in Queens who want to develop and pursue their love of the arts professionally.

“We had one or two kids who had an interest in the arts, and we wanted to help them in the process,” Abraham said. “We taught them how to write songs, and we took them to the studio. We did some stage coaching, and we shot music videos with them.”

After training the kids, Hill and Abraham realized there was no platform for the youths to display their work.

“We had all these kids that we were working with, and then we decided to put together this festival — a big platform, something bigger than just a school recital, something that felt professional,” said Abraham.

Several Queens’ acts will have the opportunity to open for the festival’s headliners and showcase their skills to a crowd that is expected to draw more than 1,000 people.

Some of the youth-based acts include Vicki S., a singer from Richmond Hill who was the first-place winner of “Child Stars of Tomorrow” in February 2018; Julie Winter, a singer from Flushing; Trey Benni, a rapper from Forest Hills; and George Padilla, a rapper from Maspeth.

“I am very excited to be performing at the music festival for the second time,” said Padilla, 20. “I make my music from scratch and post it [on Instagram and Youtube], and I make covers of other hip-hop, R&B and pop songs on social media. I am very passionate about getting my music out there.”

Padilla is working on music for an EP that he hopes to release later this year.

Other Queens’ acts include the Jules Dance group from Rosedale and the Prototype Dancers from the Saratoga Inn Homeless Shelter in Jamaica, whose members attend the Prototype’s music program.

The music festival will also be honoring Cayla Kumar, a Queens Village teen who is the current titleholder of Miss Outstanding Teen New York, with an award. Kumar uses her pageant platform to raise awareness for pediatric cancer.

“I’m extremely excited and grateful,” said Kumar, who intends to use her moment at the festival to continue raising awareness for pediatric cancer.

Kids from the outer-boroughs will also get a chance to perform.

“We want to bring people to Queens to enjoy the arts as well,” Abraham said. “There is pride from the residents that are from here and there is a chance for people outside of the borough, outside of the state and outside of the country to come here and enjoy things from Queens.”

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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