Rachael John-West, performance name Aliza, intimately knows the magic of music. Aliza is a local artist, songwriter, and social worker, and for the past four years, “I’ve worked one-on-one with the youth going through mental health [issues], addictions, or needing [legal] ID.” Work provided her with a small music studio where Aliza shared her love of creating music and helped youth produce music and write their songs. She has built her own studio at home, where she works with youth and bands.

“Music is valuable in relationship work. You give somebody paper and a pen and tell them to write something.” She then asks the youth a few questions and lets them fall into their passion. The most exciting thing for Aliza is, “I hear what’s [in] their heart and that they didn’t even know they could express themselves that way.” While these youth couldn’t find their worth in other areas, music provides a powerful outlet.

Aliza is learning the recording process properly and seeing how the music world comes together. She’s also witnessing how music helps young people who struggle in school. “Some 17-year-olds need pictures to identify what to order in a restaurant. Yet, if you give them a microphone, they rap about complexities deep in their heart.” Aliza repeatedly witnesses the power of tapping into and validating their inner genius that shifts something so that they can then attend a class, able to learn.

Like the instrument side, “Kids can play the guitar amazingly without knowing what a C chord is—they just listen and start playing. So much talent.” Aliza calls her work community building through music. Struggling to build her confidence in performing, Aliza says, “My journey was more about mental health than a musical journey. I started having self-confidence in myself when the music connected me with person after person.” She now sings with two other young women known as Jananie and Maya. “We support each other with harmony and guitar.”

Aliza says, “We each write from a place of unpacking concepts important to our mental health.” United by that common thread, “Music helps us to be genuine in a slightly different way, yet common in how we write.” Aliza discovered Jananie (also a social worker) by following her on social media and inviting her to hang out, where Jananie was the first to hear Aliza’s particularly vulnerable piece. “She validated me in a crazy way, and that was the first time I met her.” One of Jananie’s songs also helped a couple grieve the loss of their son.

Ever since then, they knew they would perform together. After two collaborations between the two women, Aliza then discovered and followed Maya and sent her tickets to their next show. Maya attended and absolutely loved it. The trio’s shared love progressed naturally into performing together. Maya is a social media influencer striving to create more uplifting music with new messages that promote positivity, healing, and validation.

There was no formal decision to form a group. “We just landed together. Now that we’re doing more stuff, we’re having that conversation.” 

Learn more about the open house launch of Aliza’s Secret Garden Studio on April 15 from 1 to 4 pm by contacting Aliza on Facebook (facebook.com/alizajdubs), on Instagram (@alizajdubs), or through her website, www.alizaempire.com. Watch for a May performance date TBA.