As the lights dimmed at the Red Rattler, an intimate music venue in Sydney's inner-west, nerves and excitement of young performers filled the air as the time had finally come to perform their debut album, Serotonin.

The album launch is the end result of Creative Youth Initiative's Sounds of the Street, a 20-week TAFE accredited music course. The course teaches students to compose, perform and record their own music, while giving them the opportunity to learn an instrument. The students' music is professionally mixed and mastered with students performing their compositions at the annual album launch.

The program is targeted towards young people facing many and varied challenges in their lives, such as homelessness, mental health issues, substance abuse, family breakdown, unemployment and disengagement from education.

Tate Harris and Joel Rapaport play a key role in this process, as the student's tutors and mentors. We asked them a few questions to learn what they're passionate about.

What do you love most about what you do?

Tate: Using music to inspire young people, and helping them to complete something. The moments hearing them exclaim 'this is awesome!' about their own original music is a particular highlight.

Joel: Watching students surprise themselves with learning new things and sharing their life and experiences in their music.

What is the hardest lesson you've learnt and how did you learn it?

Joel: Not all students are ready or in a good place to learn and make music. Sometimes you have to wait until a student is ready.

If you could do any other job, what would it be?

Tate: I would own and operate my own recording studio, where I record my own and other smaller artists’ music. If I had the luxury to dedicate my time to my own creative pursuits, that would be the dream!

Joel: Professional sandwich maker.

What one trait has helped you most in your work?

Tate: It's a tie between patience and enthusiasm. But if I had to choose, I'd say patience. The level of knowledge and skill of students that come to our program is varied. So I think having the patience to sit there happily and teach a student for an hour what might take another student five minutes, is a benefit for sure.

What piece of advice would you offer to others?

Joel: Be humble, always see yourself as a student and keep learning.

Give us the elevator spiel about your role.

Tate: I teach a music production course for disadvantaged young people aged 15-24, primarily those affected by homelessness or mental health issues. We have a fully-functioning music recording studio where we teach students how to write, record, and perform their own original songs. At the same time, they complete a Certificate II in Music in partnership with TAFE NSW. Their songs are then compiled into the end of year CD and performed by the students at their CD launch concert.

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