On Tuesday, March 5th, Journalism & Media Academy (JMA) students shared their completed school song with JMA Principal Sheldon Neal.
“I think this is excellent, what you’ve all done. And I’ve been dreaming of the day this room would fill up,” remarked Neal.
Over the past few weeks JMA students have written lyrics, reorganized tracks, and recorded lines to create an original JMA school song. The project was initiated by Principal Neal.
“The song is a part of our strategy to decrease our chronic absenteeism problem and to bring attention to the importance of being in school. . We want to create a culture of ‘’we want you here and our school is better with you in it,’’ Neal said.
Originally, Neal wrote lyrics to the song and passed the project along to students to orchestrate the music, but the students decided to tackle both the lyrics and the music.
The school song was created and shared with Neal in JMA’s room 301B, Connecticut Public Learning’s student-centered music, film, photography, and graphics studio. In 301B, students have access to professional level software for recording, mixing digital audio, videography, and illustrating, featuring the Adobe Creative Cloud, Premiere Pro, Photoshop, Illustrator, Pro Tools and Blender.
Paul Pfeffer, CT Public Director of Education designed and built this engagement center. “We jumped at the opportunity to create a complimentary and immersive learning experience in the high school. Our Education Specialists are the secret sauce. The students have Dave Wurtzel, Tikeyah Whittle, Sam Hockaday and Tyler Russell, and their talents as musicians, directors of photography, graphic artists, animators, editors and colorists.”
While 301B serves as a resource center rather than a class, Pfeffer says that students caught on to what the space has to offer very quickly, “Students are now reserving their time online to come in to use 301B.”
Education Specialist Dave Wurtzel says that a lot of students come during their free periods to try out the technology, however the goal is to promote student-centered learning and empower the students so that they’re learning from each other rather than from the staff.
Kayliann, a JMA senior, says, “the coolest part about 301B is how much they encourage you, Dave is always pushing you to try new things, and without 301B, JMA would probably be pretty boring.”
For JMA students Kwaku, James, and Tim, creating the school song was one of their first assignments using 301B’s technology. Like most students, they had never used these professional-level software and technologies before stepping in 301B.
JMA 10th grade student Kwaku took the lead on arranging the music for the school song, even playing the midi keyboard to record directly into ProTools. Kwaku says this was his first time recording and “there was definitely a learning curve, but the instruction really allowed me to take off with it.” JMA student Tim says he feels really good about the final product.
As to how his exposure to the technology and instruction available in 301B has influenced him, Tim says, “this stuff is what I want to do for a living, and this room opens you up to new technologies.” Tim says he wants to major in music production after high school. For JMA senior James, the impact comes with how everyone’s part in making the song all came together and that “it actually sounded amazing.” James would like to continue creating in college in the same way he is able to in 301B, he says his dream job would be making music and writing poetry.
Kwaku, Tim, and James all said the coolest thing they have created in 301B so far has been the school song. In fact everyone at JMA seems to agree on that. Education Specialist Dave Wurtzel says, “it’s amazing what Kwaku does, and these are some very talented kids. It’s really just about getting them to know that and own it.”
After hearing the final product for the first time Principal Neal remarked, “they did some good original work that I want to share with the entire school community. 301B is an interdisciplinary approach to learning, it gets them very involved and taps into their talents. I want 301B to be institutionalized into the entire fabric of what we do here.”