For many of us, the experience of feeling like an outcast, or being bullied, was all too common in our youth. A recent study by The Center for Disease Control states that nearly 30 percent – an estimated 13 million- of school aged students have experienced bullying in their lives. Worse yet, 64 percent of those being bullied did not report it. It’s a problem that schools and communities struggle with every day and with no easy answers. But that doesn’t stop an artist like Jess Godwin from trying to help victims of bullying through her love of music.
It all started when she began interacting with a teenage girl on social media. “Three years ago, I got to know a 15-year-old fan from Virginia through Twitter.” Godwin says, “She struggled a lot in school, and it all came out through her tweets. Even though I had never met her, my heart continually broke for this young woman. In the past year or so, she picked up the guitar and started taking lessons. Fast forward to today....she is now playing her own shows and has her own set of friends outside of school through the open mic she goes to. I was so inspired by her and the fact that she was able to find a way out through music.”
This would lead to Godwin writing the lyrics to “Greater >Than”, an inspirational song that will have its music video debut at The Mayne Stage (1328 Morse Ave.) this weekend. In addition to the screening of “Greater > Than” a number of the young ladies who appear in the video will be performing.
When asked why she decided to put these youths – ages 8 to 15 - in the video, Godwin replies, “I've been working with kids for the past ten years, and I absolutely love them. I decided it was finally time to become a better role model for the kids I work with. I'm in the middle of a transition in my life where I want to make what I do a little less about me and a little more about them. I had such a blast in previous shoots, so I thought it would be fun to involve a bunch of kids and give them that experience!”
Moira, an aspiring singer/actor who appears in the video, took the message of “Greater > Than” to heart. “I relate to the message of the song; it is something I strongly believe in.” she says. “I really think it’s important for girls to be told that they are greater than the negative things that people say or do. Girls should be proud of who they are. “
Lucy, another performer who attends the Actor’s Training Center in Wilmette, hopes that young folk who hear the song gain a sense of hope. “I hope that people will learn from this song that the arts offer a creative outlet and a positive escape from being bullied” she says.
Lily, who wants to be a professional singer and who auditioned for the video after hearing about the subject matter, offers advice for victims of bullying. “Well, from my experiences, I have to say that you need to push through and ignore what they say. But that doesn't mean to just forget. It means to learn from your experiences and be strong and yourself.”
The video is directed by Jessica Redish who Godwin has known from her work in theater. “She is a musical theater director and choreographer.” Godwin says. “Jessica and I did a few projects together, and last year she directed me as Catherine in “Pippin” at the Music Theatre Co. in Highland Park. She approached me about wanting to do a music video, and I brought the story of the young fan to the table with an earlier edit of "Greater>Than."
Once the partnership was formed, the call went out to young performers who would be more of the focus of the video. This would be a new experience for Godwin. “In the other video shoots, there was definitely a focus - may I say obsession? - on how I looked in the shots. I was also really focused on being "actory", and "getting in character", and giving the camera a good performance. This time around, I was so busy running around, hanging out with the kids, and talking to the parents, that I had to trust stylist and wardrobe wiz Cathy Nathan - who also styled at least three looks for EVERY girl in that video - to make sure I wasn't running around with mismatched socks on. I had so much fun reveling in the joy and excitement of the girls that I kept forgetting I was supposed to be in the shots! In all honesty, it felt more like youth group or a retreat than a music video shoot.”
Moira agrees, “I have made so many great friendships through this project and I’m looking forward to being with them in the days and years ahead. I love the performing arts, so after the song and video are released at Mayne Stage, I hope to continue working with them and in this field, whether it be acting, dancing, or singing, and meeting great people along the way.”