Located in the center of the southern musical triangle between Memphis, Nashville and Alabama’s famous Muscle Shoals, students at Mt. Pleasant High School wish to leave their own imprint on the region’s rich recorded music traditions.
On Monday, the school unveiled its new recording studio and opened it up with memorable riffs and drum beats from the school’s current and past talented musicians.
After the studio’s opening celebration, three students, who make up the band On the Spot, were busy performing their own set and instrumental renditions of rock classics for the school’s studio-based TV production class.
The group, made up of guitarist McCauley Kinzer, drummer Jackson Gary and bassist Diante Hardin, have become a central part of the new studio.
âIt’s a great way to express yourself,â Kinzer said ahead of the session. âI see this as an opportunity. “
Strengthening the STEAM program
MPHS has been designated as a STEAM school by the Tennessee Department of Education along with the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network, with a focus on science, technology, engineering, math, and the arts.
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Students and staff at the new studio celebrated with a ribbon cut and musical performance by Holy Smoke, a classic rock band led by 2015 high school graduate John Wilkes alongside bassist and 2013 graduate Blake McDaniel.
As the group played the heavy, upbeat tune, the students at Mt. Pleasant recorded and filmed the performance, putting their newly acquired production skills to use after studying the craft as part of the integrated audiovisual experience of the school.
âWe want our students to think and act as creators and not just as consumers of content,â said Ryan Jackson, principal of the school. âWe want our students to act as agents for themselves. We claim this constellation of communities.
“Students will now have the ability to write, record, produce and mix music,” he added. This new addition completes the deck of our MPMS recording studio, allowing students to pursue their passion for music and recording music. As Tennessee’s first STEAM campus, we are proud to incorporate art in our STEM program.As one of the stars of Nashville Constellation Big Backyard, our new recording studio crystallizes our relationship and connection with the historic Muscle Shoals, Alabama, home to the legendary FAME Studio and Muscle Shoals Sound. “
The program currently offers a studio TV production course launched in 2019, preceding the completion of the school’s sound studio this spring, which features a recording and audio production course accessible to all students enrolled in high school.
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Grant helps students succeed
A school where more than 40% of enrollees come from low-income families, funds to build the new studio came from a $ 500,000 grant given to the high school in 2017 by the Clark Legacy Foundation, a charitable effort established by CLARCOR, a leading global filtration systems organization headquartered in Franklin prior to its 2017 acquisition by Parker Hannifin Corporation for an estimated $ 4.3 billion.
âIt’s a gift that keeps on giving,â Jackson said. âWe’ve been very tax-careful with this to make sure we stretch the dollar and give our kids those opportunities. We give our children the tools to put themselves in a better position, whatever it is. It sums up our vision of âthe courage to createâ and our STEAM ideology. It’s our state of mind, and no one can stop our state of mind. We want our students to experience a journey unlike any other. “
‘Push for something more’
Sam Stough, the school’s orchestra teacher, is leading the new audio recording class.
âThe kids pushed for something more,â Stough said. âHe teaches that mistakes will happen and to find ways to correct those mistakes. This applies to all study programs. Especially with music, there is something you can change to make it a little better. “
Sough said the long-term goal of the program is to guide students in composing and arranging their own music in the new studio.
Abby Murphy and Alice Stofel lead the video production component of the program.
âThis is another path our students can take,â said Murphy. âOur students learn that it gives them opportunities in different fields so that they can see that they could get into the fields of film and music. It’s a big part of what Nashville and Tennessee is. They love to do it and know it’s something they can be good at, even if they’re not college students.
Stofel said the new audio recording component of the course also gives students from both programs the opportunity to work together and create new programs.
âI think it just improves everything,â Stofel said. âIt allows children to create end products that they are very proud of. “
Opportunities prepare students for success
After class, the three members of On the Spot stayed late while Gary shared a new guitar riff with his bandmate.
âWe’re in a small town, even though we’re so close to it, people don’t understand what it means to be in the music business,â Gary said.
Hardin has spent most of his high school career playing bass in the high school band, he said he and his senior classmates are now leaving high school after having the chance to be part of a whole new experience.
âI am grateful for the opportunity,â Hardin said. “I’m grateful that we came together for something like this.”
Freshman Eli Harvey is currently the youngest student on the program in the studio.
âIt sets us up for a future in the recording business,â Harvey said. âWe are learning how to record, produce and download everything online. This is really what we do. I really love to listen to all the music that we record and see how it all goes.
Last month, the students recorded a performance by Skylar Gregg, a Nashville-based singer-songwriter.
Both recent recordings can now be listened to online on the Mount Pleasant Sound Studio’s Bandcamp page at https://mountpleasantsoundstudio.bandcamp.com/.
The website offers both digital and physical distribution services aimed at hosting recording artists with audiences large and small. The site has grown in popularity as a medium for independent musicians to broadcast their work.
Like Holy Smoke, Gregg visited the new studio where the students of Mt. Pleasant recorded it playing an original composition.
âIt’s been a lot of fun getting to know the artists,â said Harvey, who spent a lot of his time watching his father record southern gospel musicians.
âIt’s a big part of our culture,â added Harvey. “This has been a great thing for Mt. Pleasant.”
The new program received a warm welcome from Kids on Stage, a foundation that works to improve student learning opportunities through visual and performing arts in schools in Mt. Pleasant.
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âWith Kids on Stage, we believe there are multiple stages,â said Michael Mitchell, Artistic Director of Kids on Stage on Stage for Mt. Pleasant Schools. âThere is the stage where you are on stage during the theatrical performance or you are on stage as a musician, but there are also children who are touring. We believe that the creation of this recording studio enhances creativity and helps develop all kinds of talent.
Eric Gebhardt, a Texas-born, Alabama-raised singer-songwriter who performs under the name Red Mouth, was in attendance at the opening ceremony.
âI have yet to see a child who looks miserable,â Gebhardt said. âI’m 42 years old and never wanted to go back to high school until I came here. It’s amazing to see.
Mike Christen is the multimedia editor of the Daily Herald. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @MikeChristenCDH.