Detroit Youth Choir Honors Victims of Gun Violence and Calls for More Action in New Version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”

Detroit Youth Choir Honors Victims of Gun Violence and Calls for More Action in New Version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”

As Students Everywhere Head Back to School, Detroit Youth Choir Honors Victims of Gun Violence and Calls for More Action in New Version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”

Rendition of Song Inspired by 11 Year Old Uvalde Victim, Layla Salazar

DETROIT, Aug. 16, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — According to research by the New England Journal of Medicine, an average of 12 children a day die from gun violence in America. Finding solutions to make our schools and our communities safer from gun violence can’t just be down to the families impacted by these tragedies, it is down to all of us. This is the hope behind a new version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” released today by the Detroit Youth Choir.

As kids everywhere return to school, the Detroit Youth Choir today released their own take on the song made famous by Guns N’ Roses to call for continued progress in the wake of recent tragedies in Uvalde, Oxford, Highland Park, and Buffalo. Over 50 Choir members aged between 8-18 years old, under the leadership of Artistic Director Anthony T. White contributed to this new arrangement of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” which was created by Grammy Award winning producer Gerard Smerek from Yessian Music, and creative agency Imagination, the team behind the Detroit Youth Choir’s 2020 anthem: “Glory”.

The group of young singers from the Motor City gained national attention when they won the Golden Buzzer and reached second place on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” in 2019, as well as with their rendition of “Glory” in 2020 calling for racial equality in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

Alistair Wilson, Managing Director of Imagination said; “We continue to be incredibly inspired by this young group of talented change makers from Detroit. Their view of the future is one we all want to live in. We hope our collaboration to lift up their voices inspires others to continue the necessary work to find solutions that make our schools and our communities safer from gun violence.”

The song choice was inspired by the story of Layla Salazar, age 11, who was one of the nineteen children and two teachers tragically killed at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. Each morning as her Dad Vinnie Salazar drove Layla to school in his truck, they would sing-along together to “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns N’ Roses. The song, Layla’s father wrote on Facebook, was the only thing bringing him peace right now. Layla’s father Vinnie gave permission for her image to be used in the video that accompanies the recording and has shared his appreciation to the choir for their efforts.

Gerard Smerek, Executive Producer from Yessian said; “Sweet Child O’Mine is an iconic American Anthem that evokes the most precious childhood memories: Where everything was as fresh as the bright blue sky. This arrangement is one of hope. Hope that we can honor the victims of gun violence by remembering the light they shone on the world. And a message of hope delivered by the youth of America that we can all continue to work together to find solutions to prevent future tragedies. As Matthew McConaughey so perfectly said in his address at the White House, to honor the victims, “we start by making the loss of these lives matter.”

The Detroit Youth Choir’s Artistic Director, Anthony T. White, said, “This song asks a simple question; “Where do we go now?” While progress has been made, this is no time for complacency, as the lyrics of the rap in the song say: “It can’t take 10 years to ask what’s next.” This version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is a poignant call to action from today’s youth to all grown-ups to stay at the table, show respect to one another and continue to work together to find solutions to make our schools and communities safer from gun violence.”

Detroit Youth Choir member Gwendolyn Jackson, age 15, who performs a solo on this version of ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’ lost her own father, Marcel Jackson, to gun violence in 2012. Jackson said: “The victims of gun violence are not only those who were killed, it’s also the injured, the ones who witnessed the horror, or like me, who lost a father at the age of 5. Young people in this country have an underlying sense of fear at the movie theater, school, a concert, or at a shopping mall and that’s not right. My Dad believed in community safety, he didn’t just talk about it, he walked the walk, now it’s time for my generation to do something to help us all be safer from gun violence.”

The Detroit Youth Choir and creative team behind this work will also use the song to draw attention to the incredible work by Sandy Hook Promise whose mission is to end school shootings and create a culture change that prevents violence and other harmful acts that hurt children. Through their proven, evidence informed ‘Know the Signs’ programs and by supporting sensible, bipartisan school and gun safety legislation, Sandy Hook Promise teaches young people and adults to recognize, intervene, and get help for individuals who may be socially isolated and/or at risk of hurting themselves or others.

The Detroit Youth Choir’s version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is set to be made available on all major streaming platforms, with the video available on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.

About: Detroit Youth Choir
The Detroit Youth Concert Choir & Performing Arts Company (DYC) is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization that services young people throughout the Detroit Metropolitan area. It teaches and develops students between the ages of 8-18 through music education, dance, and theatrical arts. In 2019, DYC finished second on NBC’s America’s Got Talent and have since performed at various events around the City of Detroit, nationally, and internationally. The choir currently has 101 members. In 2020 they released their version of the song “Glory” created by John Legend and Common which was called by Deadline Hollywood as “one of the anthems of a summer dominated by a call for social change”, receiving millions of views and performed for President Biden, Vice President Harris and President Obama. The group went onto receive a Stellar Award in 2021 for their version of “Glory” and have been commissioned for a docuseries on the choir for Disney+.

Detroit Youth Choir statement on Gun Control:
“Our prayer is that America continues to work together to find common ground and solutions that better protect our kids and our communities from gun violence whilst respecting the 2nd amendment. It’s down to all of us, let’s focus on what we can do together to make America safer from gun violence.”

About: Yessian Music
Yessian is a global collective of producers, composers, music supervisors, research creatives and recording artists. With six full-service recording studios, including a music licensing and research division, the studio offers a complete source for music, sound design and soundscapes. This powerful combination has allowed Yessian to enlist some of the world’s best-known brands in film, television, advertising, gaming and theme parks as clients. The DYC ‘Glory’ collaboration features the talents of Executive Music Producer and Grammy Award winning mixer Gerard Smerek, whose accomplishments include work with Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, Donna Summer Gary Clark Jr. to live mixing at Wembley Stadium for Nelson Mandela’s Global Concert; Senior Mixer Scott Gatteño, a lifelong musician whose mixing awards include THEAs, Eurobest, NY Festivals and more; Lars Mackie, Music Licensing Supervisor and Chief Creative Officer Brian Yessian.

About: Imagination
Imagination is an Experience Design Company headquartered in London, with 14 offices worldwide. Founded over 50 years ago on a principle of Independent Creativity – we bring together diverse groups of strategic, creative and practical people to find the creative and inspired answers to client challenges. We remain independent to this day.

We have earned a reputation for consistently challenging and changing the status quo, through our core offers of Consulting, Destinations, Content and Live. Imagination’s clients include LG, Ford Motor Company, IKEA, LVMH, Samsung, Jaguar Land Rover, HSBC, Major League Baseball, 3M, Turkish Airlines, Shell and Telstra.

Imagination was recognized as Campaign’s Global Brand Experience Agency of the Year Awards 2021.

About: Indigo Yaj (Rapper)
Jayla Smalls, better known as IndigoYaj, is a 21-year-old Detroit native has been singing since the age of 4 and working on her lyrical skills since the age of 10. She developed her craft in school and church choirs before becoming a member of the Detroit Youth Choir.

In 2019 she was able to solidify the choir’s mark on the nation with her ability to create rap lyrics on Season 14 of NBC’s hit TV show America’s Got Talent. The choir received the Golden Buzzer and went onto claim second place in the competition overall.

In 2019 Jayla was one of the first female recipients of the Keys to Detroit for her work with the Detroit Youth Choir, an honor bestowed on other artists including the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder and Big Sean.

During the pandemic Jayla has used her skills to advocate for racial equality, writing and performing the raps for Detroit Youth Choir’s hit version of the song “Glory” which received millions of views and was performed for President Obama, President Biden and Vice President Harris. “Glory” went on to receive a prestigious Stellar Award and was called Deadline Hollywood as “one of the anthems of a summer dominated by a call for social change”.

Jayla is currently studying Music Production at Atlanta Clark University in Georgia and has recently completed an internship with Yessian Music and Imagination.

Filming locations
Filming took place at the Durfee Innovation Society in Detroit.

The Detroit Youth Choir, Imagination and Yessian Music would like to thank Vinnie Salazar and his family. Film Production support by Get Super Rad. Permission to use the song was kindly granted by Universal Music.


Press Enquiries

Joanna Rosholm
[email protected]
Founder & Partner, Original Strategies

Alistair Wilson
Managing Director, Imagination
[email protected]

Detroit Youth Choir
Antony T. White
Artistic Director, Detroit Youth Choir
[email protected]

Rap Lyrics

–First verse—
Hey, it’s time to wake up
Sweet child I know the pain is getting tough
When life gets rough and we don’t care
And the thoughts and prayers don’t even get us anywhere
And darkness is knocking at the door
Superman can’t even save us anymore
We didn’t act so the tears fall
What are we to do
When we lose the people we love most, the youth

–Second verse—
Hey, look little progress is a big step
But it shouldn’t take 10 years to ask what’s next
You leave that doorstep it’s the real world
Scary part is targets can really be any boy or girl
Dreams taken, spirit’s shining from the sky,
Asking us to remember their cry
Young-in’s holding grown-ups to account
We can make the loss of these lives count
Yeah, every second counts

SOURCE – Detroit Youth Choir

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