Music Technology 2009: A Year of Collaboration
The Huntington Middle School Music Technology Club (HMTC) embarked on its second year with numerous questions. Among them, how do we replace talented musicians and songwriters such as graduating students Joshua Gatling, Rosetta Smith, Nicole Copland, and Tatiana Connay? Fortunately, we had one returning student, the 2008 “Sound Engineer of the Year” Connay Bratton and newcomers to the program Adrian Cowherd, Allysha Saunders, Osiris Miller, Whitney Diaz, Baili Silver, and many others. Additionally, in cooperation with area high school magnet programs, former students such as Joshua, Rosetta, and Tatiana served as mentors to new students. Along with Justin Eley, from Menchville high school, another mentor, they devoted more than 300 hours assisting new students to begin their journey into the world of music technology. In all, three high schools participated in the extension mentorship program, Heritage, Warwick, and Menchville high schools.
This year students in addition to learning the basics of music technology were also permitted to take beginning piano lessons. Mrs. Marcia Binns, the wife of the sponsor of the HMTC, met weekly as a volunteer to instruct six students in the fundamentals of piano and basic music theory. Mrs. Binns is a high school graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) and also attended two years as a college student at the renowned performing arts conservatory as an operatic voice major before marriage to Mr. Binns, also an alumnus of UNCSA. She interned under her father who was a high school band director and piano teacher for more than 30 years. Mrs. Binns also arranged for each student to procure an electric keyboard and songbook through donations from fellow teachers at Sanford Elementary School and other local schools in order to permit them to practice at home. This was at no cost to the students. Next year this collaboration will be extended. All students involved in the music technology program will be strongly encouraged to take weekly private keyboard or guitar lessons.
Not only were the above noted collaborations initiated but also an effort to unite the talents of the communications program under the direction of Mr. Reginald Crudup was further pursued. Mr. Crudup worked closely with HMTC last year and filmed a considerable portion of the “School Board Spotlight” segment that appeared in April on channel 47 featuring Mr. Binns and the music technology program unique to Huntington Middle School. It is one of the highest viewed segment on NNPS-TV. This was a follow-up to a Daily Press article in 2008, the first year of the program. Mr. Crudup recently videotaped a segment that will feature two songs to be aired on the school’s morning broadcast that were written and performed by members of HMTC. The songs are entitled “Sooner or Later” written by a collaborative songwriting team that included Adrian Cowherd, Baili Silver, Connay Bratton, and Justin Eley and “Always” written by a team comprised of Adrian Cowherd, Allysha Saunders, and Justin Eley. These songs will be voted on by the entire school on the HMTC website to determine the “Song of the Year”. Also, Mr. Crudup’s communications class will be producing a music video featuring the two songs and the live performance that will be released on DVD and available for purchase.
A highlight of the year for the students was a collaborative effort involving HMTC students, faculty and staff, Mr. Crudup’s communications classes, and Mrs. Harmon and chorus members. On June 10th they recorded a song entitled “I Believe In This Dream”. This positive song of hopes and aspirations was written by HMTC students who created the lyrics and melody. Mr. Binns composed the soundtrack. The song was featured on a video highlighting the school year that was produced by Mr. Crudup and shown during the eighth grade progression on June 16th. Finally, a three song CD was recorded on June 10th featuring all the aforementioned songs. HMTC students were recognized during the 6, 7, and 8 grade award assemblies. Among the special acknowledgments were “HMTC Student of the Year”, “Sound Engineer of the Year”, “Songwriter of the Year”, “Lyricist of the Year”, “Producer of the Year”, and “Best All-Around HMTC Student”. Medals, certificates, trophies and plaques were presented. High school student mentors also were recognized.
On June 27th Baili' Silver, HMTC Student of the Year was treated with a front row ticket, Row 1-seat #5, at the 2009 Hampton Jazz Festival as guests of Mr. and Mrs. Binns. Her grandmother, Cheryl Silver, accompanied her and sat in seat #6. We thank Mr. Lucius Wyatt one of the festival organizers for assisting in this matter. Approximately 8,000 were in attendance. Baili' was able to observe firsthand music technology's many applications in performance such as viewing soundboards, microphone usage, sound engineers, laptops with software to control various sound modules, and the use of digital keyboards and synthesizers. In her perfect seat she could actually reach out and touch the musicians in that Fantasia and the saxophonist for the Forte ensemble stood and performed offstage directly in front of her repeatedly. She applauded and was mesmerized by the awesome display of musicianship. She sent a text message to Mr. Binns the next day writing: "Oh wow! Thank you so much! That was the best night ever!!"
Under the skillful direction of the principal, Mrs. Cleo Holloway, and the magnet school director, Dr. Anita Plaskett, the music technology club at the "Hunt" is closely aligned with the initiatives of Newport News Public School and the Superintendent, Dr. Ashby Kilgore's goal "to make it possible for all students to succeed in the 21st century." The reason for the initiative: "The economic and demographic changes which are influencing the job market make it clear that the education that was good enough 35 years ago is not good enough today." Music Technology is an example of the emerging shifts in the music industry and in society as a whole. As stated in a recent article in the MENC journal regarding music technology: "... It focuses on a more modern philosophy that builds creativity and 21st century skills in ways that may remind an observer more of a technical classroom than a music class." Teaching Music, The Innovative Path to a “Really Big Show”, August 2009, Volume 17, Number 1.
(L) Mrs. Binns, Baili', and Mr. Binns posing at the
2009 Hampton Jazz Festival. This was her award for
earning the 2009 "MTC Student of the Year
Baili' enjoying the performances with her grandmother, Mrs. Cheryl Silver.
Some of the performers
Eddie Lavert of The O'Jays