Kollaboration-Seattle, held on October 15, 2011 can be described as a three-hour talent competition for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans. But for the dedicated supporters behind the scenes, that description is only a nutshell that holds the core of an arts movement. The breadth of talents discovered is living proof of the empowerment created by Kollaboration-Seattle for local artists.
“It has been an empowering and inspiring experience,” said Kevin Park, Kollaboration-Seattle executive director. “It’s also an exciting time because nothing like this has been happening in Seattle for Asian Americans.”
Rooted in its mission, “Empowerment through Entertainment,” the national umbrella organization of Kollaboration began its journey in 2000 in Los Angeles as an effort to promote the talents of Asian and Pacific Islander American artists. In 2011, Kollaboration reached Seattle—becoming one of 13 cities in North America to cultivate the creative expressions of APIs on stage.
In its sophomore year, Kollaboration-Seattle expanded their volunteer staff, grew in all areas of entrepreneurship and remained committed to civic engagement. For two consecutive years, Kollaboration Seattle supported One Day’s Wages—a non-profit dedicated to ending extreme global poverty.
“It’s beyond just the talent showcase,” said Park. “It’s all about the community. You don’t even have to be a competitor, or a judge for the show. We want to build this sense of community for everyone.”
During its inaugural year, hip-hop emcee Gowe, was amongst a competitive line-up including winner, Erin Kim. Now dedicated full-time to creating music, Gowe supported the second year of Kollaboration-Seattle as a guest performer.
“[Kollaboration] reinforces the idea that if you follow your dreams, that there is a way for you to achieve your goals,” said Gowe.
Other special guest performances included Massive Monkees—a popular break-dancing group in Seattle and the Australian duo known as Jayesslee (Janice and Sonia Lee). Jayesslee has reached over 250,000 subscribers on their YouTube channel by uploading videos of their acoustic covers like “Nobody” by the Wonder Girls.
“I think [Kollaboration] is a great platform for artists who haven’t yet got the exposure,” said Jayesslee’s Sonia Lee. “They get the opportunity to come out and show what they are gifted with.”
In pursuit of discovering local talent, audition processes began in May. Staff screened through each applicant until a competitive group of musically diverse singers and performers were established.
“We had a lot of applications but we also wanted quality competitors,” said Victoria Ju, Kollaboration-Seattle’s public relations manager.
That night, competitors Clairbel Novelo, IWillBot, Lijie, Lion’s Ambition, Stuart Sakoda and Boom-Katz performed in front of over 900 audience members at the Auburn Performing Arts Center. From pure vocals to rhythm-infested choreographs, the competitors performed dynamically, increasing the visibility for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in music and entertainment.
“Entertainment is very empowering because our intake is very visual,” said Ju. “If you don’t see Asian American role models in the media, parents won’t see it as a visible path for their kids.”
Last year, performer Lijie was sitting in the audience. This year, she became a competitor.
“I went to Kollaboration last year,” said Lijie. “Since then, it’s been on my mind and heart to compete.”
And after that night, Lijie has new appreciation for the platform Kollaboration provides.
“Competing in Kollaboration definitely gave me a lot of hope,” said Lijie, who performed vocals with a guitar. “What I really love about Kollaboration is that they raise the bar and that in itself, is so significant. It pushes the artists to get better.”
Lion’s Ambition—a band of six formed in 2008 with a rock vocalist, became the winner of this year’s Kollaboration-Seattle. Representing Seattle, they are now competing for the finals at national Kollaboration.
“The cool story about Lion’s Ambition is that they literally came back from not making auditions last year,” said Park. “Now, they are the final competitors at the Los Angeles Nokia Theater.”
Beyond the moments on stage that got heads bopping and hands swaying, Kollaboration is a testament to humble beginnings and stories of determination built up by a strong supportive network.
“The Kollaboration alumnus is deep,” said Gowe. “And due to the Kollaboration family being so tight knit, people are always down to help one another.”
What spawns after the show are endless possibilities.
“Kollaboration-Seattle will expand more,” said Ju. “We always say to ‘dream big.’”
Let the anticipation begin.