Cole Forrest: Hip Hop Jazz Artist, Youth4Music Ambassador, 2016 James Bartleman Aboriginal Creative Writing Award Recipient


Cole Forrest describes himself as a Hip Hop Jazz artist from North Bay, Ontario. A simplified way of mentioning all of the things that make up this humble, thoughtful and dedicated 18-year old spoken word poet, scriptwriter, film director, and saxophone player. Currently studying Digital Film Production at Sault College in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, he is one of six youth who were awarded the 2016 James Bartleman Aboriginal Creative Writing Award. Over 250 applications from across Canada were submitted. Cole impressed the panel with two works and won the Senior Off Reserve category. The first work is titled Death of Grandmother, recounting the day of his Grandmother’s death; the second is a spoken word poetic work called Brown Skin, about an Aboriginal teenager growing up in a culture he doesn’t understand and what it means to be an Aboriginal person in today’s world.

Cole noticed a particular connection to spoken word poetry as a Grade 7 student. He was inspired by a Shane Cousin’s poem ‘To This Day’ where Shane speaks to his experiences being bullied as a youth. Cole began to develop his own poetic voice after finding encouragement from friends, mentors and teachers as well as a new-found attitude to seek information, “self education is one of the best things you can do”. A saxophone player with an interest in jazz, Cole listens to a lot of improvisational ‘free’ jazz which he relates to his writing style – improvised and always actively taking shape. He compares his poetic lines to pages of staff paper where they can grow like musical phrases and develop around the importance of the text. In order to continue to grow and challenge himself, Cole is constantly posing the question, “what is the next step, what can I do now” to raise his creative profile and become more connected to his inner muse.

Cole describes how receiving this award has completely changed his life. “Having the opportunity to be recognized for one’s work is amazing, especially having encouragement from someone like James Bartleman. It was incredible to meet and speak with him in person. The support is important, knowing they are interested in my future.

The Coalition shares this support since having met Cole at a Youth4Music event in his hometown of North Bay, Ontario. Now a Youth4Music Ambassador, Cole spoke as a panelist during our first Youth4Music Toronto Symposium and is currently the project lead with a First Nations community program of Youth4Music Ontario. He possesses a strong youth voice committed to inspiring others to pursue their passion, “It is important to never give up and to always seek opportunities. By remaining committed, you will eventually see the opportunities that your passion gives to you”.