So, this is gonna be a weird thread for me. After getting bored a while back and reading an older thread in this board with similar themes (definitely read it to understand the rest here), I started getting the feeling that we're in a similar situation today. With our community being smaller now than then, what can really be done about it? Well, crack open your favorite potato fluid, because I've got some words on this subject.
Since I came back to YS after the COVID lockdowns started, I've tried to get new people into our world through my combination of video promotions/tutorials and direct support via Discord. Over time, that grew to include stepping into various parts of the amateur virtual airshows world to try and farm new people who could join our aerobatics community. Those of you who are on the sort of Discord servers I end up in because of this are already familiar with what I find: dozens upon dozens of new people who all have in their Discord bios that they're the "pilot of [Y virtual version of real life demo team]", and in what feels like 7 out of 10 times, it's always some American military group like the Viper team or the Thunderbirds. Oh, and almost all of them have never actually committed to flying them. Hoo boy.
Now, don't get me wrong. Some of these newcomers are probably pretty passionate about their craft, and we could be lucky to ever get them active around here - for that matter, we already have a few. But at some point, you kind of have to wonder: is this what YSFHQ aerobatics is destined to be for the foreseeable future? A slow procession of every Roblox transplant who thinks they have what it takes to be the next Kujo or Zack? Because, as much as it might bring us closer to the world of realism, I feel like this would just leave us with nothing unique to offer beyond run-of-the-mill aerobatics with bad graphics.
And, well, if I weren't already a YS pilot, I'd probably find that very boring and move right along. But as someone who only debuted on the HQ airshow circuit fairly recently, I say, let's rethink!
See, I come at this issue with a pretty unique perspective. For those of you who weren't around back then, in my earlier years, I got a reputation for knocking off, and in one incident, even stealing displays from, other performers here on HQ (that netted me a two-month ban in spring 2014), and just generally being a grating child. Once I came back to the fray in 2020, I decided to try to make up for that by going in a completely different direction: forging my own distinct style of aerobatics, and trying to be equal parts a technical pilot and a crowd-pleasing entertainer.
Now, why am I talking about all of this? Simple: I want to play a part in mixing things up here in the world of HQ aerobatics by sharing what I've learned over time. And, to tie into my theme of creating eclectic styles, guess what this project of mine for doing so will be named?
THE ZYDECO ACADEMY
Zydeco, a unique genre of music from my home state of Louisiana which mixes blues/R&B and early rock with Creole and Native folk music, is the perfect symbol for what I want to encourage in newcomers to YS aerobatics: to experiment with flying different aircraft, in different ways, and generally expand outside their comfort zones. (To put it more bluntly: if you want me to oversee you learning to fly something like the USACC Viper demo, this is not the clinic for you.) Along the way, "students" will (if applicable) learn other skills related to display presentation such as scripting, audio editing, and voice acting.
What form this project will take on depends on how many people wish to take part in it. If only a few people come around at most, it'll simply be the brand name for my regiment of coaching newbies individually, with no other strings attached. However, if a sufficient amount of people decide to take part in practicing in the Zydeco Academy, we will be able to establish a secondary function of the clinic that I like to call the "developmental territory": a series of smaller, informal YSFHQ airshows in which our students can fly, and get both feedback and experience performing for an audience, before moving on up to the full shows hosted by YSMAA and others.
If you're one of the new YS pilots interested in joining, the Zydeco Academy will be based on Hawk's YSFlight Aerodrome, the Discord which serves as a bridge between my Youtube channel and HQ. To sign up, simply come to the server and fill out the questionnaire pinned in the "sign up here" channel. Bear in mind that you are not guaranteed to be accepted, as I can be fairly selective with who I think will truly benefit from the program. It will involve pointed, but constructive criticism at students' displays, so you must be prepared for it.
As they often say, you need to learn to crawl before you can walk, and walk before you can run. If you can "graduate" from the Zydeco Academy, rest assured that you'll be able to sprint across the YS skies with the rest of us. I hope to see you around soon!
CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE DISCORD