Guest Post by Peter Joynt
In April 2018, I visited Fisher Park Summit Alternative School in Ottawa. It was one of the 150 presentations I’ve done at city schools to promote positivity, self-acceptance, and resilience in students. There, I met Pei Pilgrim, a 14-year-old singer that writes and sings like a veteran of the game.
I never set out to be a motivational speaker. I started out as a rapper, but a rapper with something unique—a stutter. My speech impediment comes across quite noticeably in regular speech, but then disappears when I perform. It’s a party trick that has helped me become both an extrovert and an emcee.
My speech impediment comes across quite noticeably in regular speech, but then disappears when I perform.
I’m pretty open about it. After all, I’ve been stuttering since the age of 5. It’s pretty obvious when speak, so I might as well talk about it. In an interview on CBC Radio, I did just that. I told a story of how I was invited to a school for a “career day” to discuss life as a rapper. For the record, rapping is not my full-time gig.
I mentioned on-air that the conversation with students quickly turned to my stutter, as I pushed through the many speech blocks. These kids were equally interested in my experience being bullied as they were with my music.
Almost instantly after the interview aired, I started to receive requests from schools. After each school visit, word about my presentation would spread. The next thing I know, I’m a bonafide motivational speaker with weekly bookings.
“The conversation with students quickly turned to my stutter, as I pushed through the many speech blocks. These kids were equally interested in my experience being bullied as they were with my music.”
After a presentation, it’s not uncommon to get messages from students. They reach out for various reasons—to say they were inspired, to share their story, or to send along their music to get my opinion. Usually, I reply with the same words of thanks and encouragement, but that’s when I got a message that would change things forever.
After my talk at Fisher Park, I got a message on Instagram from a student named Pei Pilgrim. Pei had this to say in her message:
“You came to my school for a keynote presentation. Let me just say you were so inspiring to me. I’m a musician myself, I sing, play a variation of instruments and sometimes rap on occasion too. Maybe you could give me some suggestions on how to get into the music business. I have a small recording studio in my basement and that’s how I record songs. Hopefully you can give me a push in the right direction.”
I wrote back with the best advice I had. I said to focus on writing original songs, not covers, and to get them up on YouTube. Pei wrote back with a link to some of her songs—original songs! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She had written these catchy songs and her voice was really good… and unique. You could tell this girl had real talent. I mean, she produced these songs with different vocal parts and harmonies. Then you realize she’s playing all the instruments in the song too. She wasn’t just some kid playing around in her basement. Pretty incredible for someone who’s only in high school.
Pei’s message came in as I was working on a new song; a song about the summer. I figured I would flip the beat over to Pei to see what she could do with it. In just two days Pei sent back an entire song—written and recorded—complete with multiple vocal parts and harmonies. And it was good!
I couldn’t believe what I got back from the collaboration. Truth be told, I was now worried about how I was going to write my part of the song now. How was I, a 40-year-old emcee with 20 years of experience, going to live up to being on this track? I dug deep into those summer feelings, and used Pei’s part on the track to inspire me. The result is our first single, “Loving This Feeling”.
Since recording that first song together, a bunch of cool things have happened to Pei and I, a.k.a. Pei & The Joynt. Not only have we earned a bunch of buzz on local radio and TV stations (thank you Ottawa media), but we signed a management deal. We are now a legitimate band – and we just put out our debut EP. It’s a four-song hip-hop/pop release that showcases Pei’s incredible talents. I’m on there too, but you’ll see when you listen that Pei steals the show.
There’s no question, we’re an unlikely duo. But we have something that’s hard to find—a strong creative connection. It’s a connection that bridges the age gap, and proves that anything can happen when you’re positive. As with anything in life, you just need to keep an open mind, and go for it.
Follow @peiandthejoynt on Instagram.
Peter Joynt is an MC, producer and public speaker from Ottawa. He has been making music for over two decades, working on projects for organizations like the Ottawa Senators, RogersTV and Ottawa Tourism. As a stutterer, Peter speaks regularly to students at local schools about bullying, self-acceptance, and resiliency.