, Newburyport, MA


February 15, 2013

Singing to their own tunes

Bryan Eaton/Staff photos Through NEF program, Nock students record an album.

Music teacher Jamie Sokolowski believes everyone has a little music in them, whether they like to stretch their pipes and sing out loud, hum along to the tune of their favorite melody or express themselves with words that might make others feel connected in thought and feeling.

But when she set out recently with her Nock Middle School sixth-grade classes to write, produce and record their individual songs, she wasn’t prepared for how immersed the kids would become in the process of recording their own musical compilations.

They started out writing quietly at their desks, she said, scratching down ideas and piecemeal lyrics in their journals. And then bit by bit, Sokolowski started hearing a chorus of young voices grow strong in some surprising ways.

“I was a little nervous about how the students would respond to it, but then they got into it,” Sokolowski said. “At first they were really shy and we basically stuck to writing song lyrics in our journals and not really singing together. The idea was to get them comfortable and starting to write on their own.”

Sokolowsi’s songwriting project is a pilot program being sponsored by the Newburyport Education Foundation and the Education Business Coalition, which partnered Sokolowski with audio engineer Chuck Walker at The Musical Suite in Newburyport to help take the assignment one step further. He’s teaching the students how to record their own album.

“It’s wonderful. Through the NEF they have a grant where you can pair up with local businesses and they fund the project that fits into an education curriculum,” Sokolowski said.

“Chuck Walker was willing to take on this project and teach the kids about the recording process, the microphones and the whole editing project. He’s recording it for us and doing the post-production. Without him, this whole aspect of the project wouldn’t be possible, so I’m so happy about that.”

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