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Studio’s music program gives at-risk students life lessons

POSTED: March 16, 2013 11:29 p.m.

Last Friday afternoon after school, 10 students gathered in a computer lab to listen to a beat they’d created a few days earlier.

Some of the students bobbed their heads in time with the music while they wrote lyrics for the song. Others tapped their foot while they anxiously waited for their turn at the microphone.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the teens from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County learn how to write, produce and record their own music with a little help from Student Studio, an educational firm that teaches at-risk and urban learners how to make music and improve their academic success.

The clubs contracted Student Studio in February to teach the teens for two months.

Jason Pleasant, director of healthy lifestyles and athletics at the club, said the studio program is by far the best outsourced program the club has started.

“They’re just learning everything about music,” Pleasant said. “They aren’t just listening to it. They write their music. They produce their music. They compose their music and they upload it on the computer. They do it all.”

The program is designed to teach at-risk learners core content in math, reading and music. It also gives students opportunities to learn about the music industry and improve their skills with technology.

As a former seventh-grade math and social studies teacher, Josh Jordan, CEO and co-founder of Student Studio, said he felt a real desire to help the at-risk demographic learn how to achieve more in the areas of math and reading.

“I found that music was an easy entry into that,” Jordan said.

Through the program, he’s able to show students how lessons they learn in the classroom translate into real life. For example, a student may learn that four plus four is eight, but may not realize that music can measured in 4/4 time.

While learning how to count a beat, the students also exercise skills in reading and writing. Each song the teens write is inspired by an article or story they read. The topic last week was “success.”

Each of the students write a few lines about what success means to them; the lines have to rhyme and flow with the rest of the song. The process requires the teens work together and encourage one another.

Tyra Newton, 13, was busy editing her lyrics while some of the other students practiced singing or rapping.
She admitted that she wasn’t sure about the program at first.

“At first I didn’t really like because I didn’t really get it, but after a few songs, I feel better about it,” Tyra said.
She said she feels more confident now that the group has made four songs and a music video.

Jordan said the extra confidence boost the students get from the program wasn’t exactly planned on.

“It wasn’t designed necessarily to be a confidence builder,” Jordan said. “But I have seen that. There were a lot of kids who didn’t want to rap, didn’t want to sing or anything. Then after a few weeks, it’s kind of like second nature. I guess we are building confidence but we didn’t realize we were doing it.”

Reggie Perry, co-founder of Student Studio, said it’s easy to see the students’ confidence grow.

“They have a lot of fun doing it, you can see them increase their confidence as well,” Perry said. “A lot of them are a little unsure when they first start but then they get going and they get used to it.”

Ashanti Tate, 12, said she likes what the program has done for her and her friends. Her favorite thing to do is create beats on the computer program Garage Band. Lyrics are a little harder to come up with, but she likes the way it feels when the words start to flow.

She said it’s taught everyone how to work together and given them a new appreciation for music.

“I thought it was just like write a lyric, write a chorus but it’s really more than that,” Ashanti said. “It’s more complex. You have to make an exact beat and everything. I really appreciate people who do music.”

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