Local teens make stunning musical debut

Published 11:06 pm Friday, March 1, 2019

A Smithfield High School graduate and three other local teens have made it to the top of the charts with the debut album for their music group “EMA LIVE.”

Their new album “Believe” ranked fourth on the Billboard “top gospel album” chart for the week of Feb. 23, and 25th on the “independent album” chart. The four teens were long-time students of the EMA Music and Arts program, a local program that teaches young performers the fundamentals of music, according to the press release.

“I started the program to expose children to music on a college or advanced level,” said EMA founder Joshua Head. “I never imagined it would lead to a music group, but early on I recognized these teens had talent the world needed to hear.”

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His daughter, Jada Head, 18, is one of the “EMA LIVE” performers. Head graduated from Smithfield High School in 2018 and is currently a freshman at Hampton University. She said she was “flabbergasted” and confused when she first got the news of the album’s success, especially since it ranked ahead of other artists that she’s admired for a long time.

“I could never imagine in my life that that would happen,” she said. “I’m extremely honored and blessed.”

Her musical training started when she was about 6 or 7 years old. She started with piano lessons at church and then sang in the choir with her father as one of its directors.

She also recorded vocals for Kingdom Kids Worldwide, which won the Stellar Gospel Music Award for “Children’s Project of the Year” in 2011, according to kingdomkidslive.com.

Her path to creating her own music started when the EMA Music and Arts program was founded in 2012. She and others learned from instructors, industry professionals and other musical experiences, and the program has reached about 500 students to date, she said.

“We are basically just an example of what EMA does,” she said about “EMA LIVE.” “We wrote those songs (for “Believe”), arranged those songs, and engineered those songs with help from my dad and another producer, (and) everything we did we learned at EMA.”

She also wrote her own harrowing track called “Sale of your Sister,” a song about the horrors of human trafficking. It started as a government class assignment during her senior year and grew into a powerful track that tells the story of a mother and son being trafficked.

Head’s sister, Nadiya, was 12 years old at the time. She learned in class that girls around that age are often targeted for trafficking.

“I felt like as a woman it was good to be aware of this, but I also had a sister around the targeting age,” she said. “It made me want to do more.”

She hopes that her music delivers a positive message that gives others hope, especially the “broken.”

“I want my music to connect with broken people. There’s a lot going on in this world at this time. So much is going on, and there’s so many things that you could talk about,” she said. “I think it’s time we talked about how to heal people and also about encouragement, because I feel like some people aren’t getting that.”

EMA LIVE’s “Believe” is available on iTunes, Google Play and other digital platforms. Visit emamusiclessons.com for more information.