December 15, 2012

NCCS students turn blank page into sound


---- — CHAMPLAIN — Adrian Carr and 36 students rocked the dreaded blank page in the Words and Music Songwriting Project at Northeastern Clinton Central School.

“I had this idea,” said Carr, a Juilliard- and Princeton-trained pianist, composer and Grammy-nominated recording engineer.

“I was looking for a way to interact and bring music into the schools. Essentially with art, they give students finger paints and a blank piece of paper and say go create a painting. But with music, somehow we have a different way of teaching it that the creative process is never really incorporated in how we learn music.”

Previously, Carr had worked with Kathy Kokes, choral and music director, in giving presentations about lyric writing and music.

“The kids were really receptive,” Carr said. “I got the idea we could expand that into a little project where we produced a CD.”

Lindsay Pontius of the Depot Theatre in Westport introduced Carr to Local Capacity Building grants funded by the New York State Council on the Arts.

“The Depot Theatre was administering the grant. They funded me to do this project to come into the Northeastern Clinton Central School. I received $1,000. The school kicked in a little bit of money. The principal, Stephen Gratto, was very supportive and open to the project,” Carr said. 

“It filled a need that wasn’t being addressed with all the budget cuts to the arts. The arts budget has been shrunk and shrunk. This was a wonderful way to do something with the students and bring arts awareness to the community and school that would not have otherwise been addressed.”

Kokes was also supportive of the project. She guessed they would draw six or seven students, but she said let’s go for it.

“I gave my presentation the first day of her course meeting,” Carr said. “We had 36 kids sign up. We organized them into little teams. I made it real world so they were working like little production teams. There was a producer in the groups, soloists, lyricist and the music composer. Sometimes, they all overlapped roles, and sometimes they were stuck to their roles.”

The project was interdisciplinary as art students designed CD covers.

“It was a great experience for the kids. We wound up getting eight different songs. That’s what we’re presenting with videos at 7 p.m. Dec. 18. It’s free,” Carr said. 

The project has a range of songs.

“It’s really interesting. Some songs lean more to the country genre. Some are R & B. Some are rap. It’s a complete gamut. The students did whatever they wanted to do. We started writing words. I tried to get some emotional juice out of them,” Carr said.

He gave them a scenario of going away.

“What would you write? We talked about that, and they came up with their own words and their own idea of what style of music they wanted to do. I played some of the piano parts just to encourage them if they needed help. Each group had their own little ensemble. They completely took it from the blank page to a finished piece,” he said.

Carr mastered a CD for the project.

“I’m hoping it can be a little fundraiser,” he said. “They can take the CD, replicate it, and sell it. I hope it can be a fundraiser for the course. That’s for them to take up and run.”

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IF YOU GO WHAT: Words and Music Songwriting Project. WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday. WHERE: Northeastern Clinton Central School, 103 Route 276, Champlain. ADMISSION: Free.