Adopt-a-School project spawns 'record label,' college dreams

Audio production students, the recording lab supervisor and faculty members have helped rock Oswego Middle School since last fall, working with a music teacher and eighth-graders to roll out 13 bands and an in-school recording company, Buc Records—all the while showing the students the benefits of college and careers.

The second year of an Adopt-a-School partnership with Oswego Middle School has raised the goals and expectations for eighth-graders and college students alike, and produced a wealth of positive learning outcomes all around, said Dan Wood, supervisor of the SUNY Oswego music department’s recording lab.

Students making music.“Buc Records is an in-school ‘company,’ but we’ve modeled it on the music industry,” said Wood, who has assisted middle school teacher Paula McKenney-Myers with her classes of eager musicians and composers and a classroom full of state-of-the-art recording equipment. “There is a marketing division, composers, bands. The bands will even have a CD release party for parents, friends and other fans.”

McKenney-Myers and Wood said that in 2010-11, the first year of the Oswego Middle School-SUNY Oswego partnership, the goal was to interact in general music classes. This year, in a project titled “Recording Our Future,” students are learning about composing music and lyrics, promoting their songs, learning to use the midi lab and other technology, publishing a wiki and marketing the CD release party, set for 7 p.m. Jan. 25, at the school on Mark Fitzgibbons Drive on the city’s southwest side.

College dream

“They get a feel for careers in studio recording, managing bands, marketing bands, advertising, public relations and composition,” McKenney-Myers said. “They’re learning about how music affects their lives. Music is everywhere. They’re being marketed to all the time.”

Wood added: “We are trying to get them to work collaboratively. We want them to realize that this is their company. We want them to see that college and a career are possible.”

When the college’s School of Communication, Media and the Arts was forming in spring 2008, faculty supported Adopt-a-School as one way to “give back” to public school colleagues whose art and music programs and budgets often sustained cuts, said Julie Pretzat, associate dean of the school.

“It turned out we received as much as we were giving,” said Pretzat, a strong supporter of the Adopt-a-School approach since the first partnership in 2009-10 with fourth-grade art students at Kingsford Park Elementary School.

Pretzat said such projects have a variety of benefits for the college, the public schools and the faculty and students of both.

“The arts, we feel, communicate across boundaries,” Pretzat said. As younger students interact with college students—including a visit to SUNY Oswego’s recording and midi labs and other facilities during the semester—the schoolchildren can start to see themselves as college students. And, she added, the college students, some of whom never had considered teaching as a career, can see that they make a difference.

Voice of experience

Greg Horning, a senior music major at the college who is interested in pursuing audio production as a career, concurs. “When I was this age exactly, my teacher gave me recording software,” Horning said. “No one told me I could do that as a profession someday. I get to teach these recording systems to kids who will actually know how to use them when they get to college.”

In an OMS classroom that doubles as a 10-workstation midi lab, Horning dons headphones as eighth-graders Jacob Johnson on drums and Michael Woolworth on guitar work with McKenney-Myers to set the tempo and prepare parts of a song for recording.

“It’s really fun,” Horning said. “Some of these students actually have something to say with their music.”

Johnson and Woolworth, both 13 and deeply engaged in the recording project, say they are now thinking about college and that they understand from their SUNY Oswego helpers that an education can contribute much for students like them who want to become musicians.

“They have experience,” Woolworth said. “They’ve done this all before.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Recording the future—SUNY Oswego senior music major Greg Horning, right rear, monitors a midi recording station at Oswego Middle School as he, 13-year-old eighth-grader Michael Woolworth (in headphones) and Oswego Middle School music teacher Paula McKenney-Myers, left, listen to Jacob Johnson, foreground, setting the tempo for an upcoming recording of a song Johnson and Woolworth composed. The college’s recording lab supervisor, Dan Wood, and McKenney-Myers have teamed in an Adopt-a-School project that partners college and middle school students in various ways.

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(Posted: Jan 19, 2012)

Tags: school of communication media and the arts, music department, music, adopt a school