The training that young musicians receive in high school is invaluable. It sets them up for a lifetime of music, whether it’s in a professional setting, as a hobby or simply as a fan. Beyond performance, however, the ins and outs of being a musician sometimes get lost, or don’t get taught at all. How many people learn in high school how to record an album, produce it, distribute it and publicize it?
That’s where Hampden Academy music teacher Pat Michaud comes in. Michaud offers a music technology class, showing students the basics of the business of music, from songwriting and recording to booking and promoting concerts.
“What we want to do is teach the kids about all the other things that go into being a musician besides the strictly performance-based aspect of it,” said Michaud. “In high school, you don’t learn how to work in a recording studio or send out press releases, usually. That’s what we’re doing here.”
The end result of the past four months of work is an original album, titled “Play It Forward,” featuring the musical talents of 12 Hampden Academy musicians. Michaud’s students in the music technology class took that music and learned how to record at Main Street Music Studios in Bangor, produce the album and distribute it, and then put on a concert for their friends and family. The “Play It Forward” CD release party will be 7-9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18, at Hampden Academy.
“We were all blank slates, definitely. I didn’t know anything about Pro Tools,” said James Gilmore, a sophomore, referring to the industry standard recording software. “I didn’t know anything about microphones or running a PA. We all had a ton to learn.”
Andrew Clifford and Brad O’Brian, recording engineers at Main Street Music Studios, offered their facility at a reduced rate to the class, who spent five sessions recording the eight-song album.
“I didn’t know how fast everything was going to move,” said Gilmore. “You think from reading about it that bands spend weeks and weeks in the studio, but we did it really quickly. We all learned quickly.”
Clifford, a drummer and longtime audio engineer, was surprised at the level of professionalism of the students and their eagerness to learn.
“I was really surprised at how fast everyone picked everything up,” said Clifford. “They were all very prepared to come in and get focused and learn. They were very good musicians, too. We always want to support education in the area and get involved in the community. I never had anything like this when I was in high school, but if we did, I would have been the first one to sign up for it.”
The album features an array of musical genres, from Jimmy Sargent’s hip-hop track “Take the World,” to the folk rock of Samantha Utrecht’s song “Fly.” Beyond Goodbye, a band composed of Hampden Academy students, contributes the pop-punk infused song “Congratulations, You’re Not a Winner,” and Emily Guillow’s two songs, “Faster and Faster” and “Time,” showcase her lyrics and vocal delivery. Vocalist Christin Casavant and pianist Tim Coston’s song “Autumn’s Butterfly” fuses classical and rock music, and Lucas Holmes’ singing is featured in the song “Untitled,” featuring his singing.
At least some of the students in Michaud’s class have taken what they have learned so far and turned it into future school and career ambitions.
“I originally wanted to go to college and become a music teacher, but after this class, I think I’d like to major in audio engineering,” said Amy Cirrinone, a junior. “It was really fun to be in the studio. I think it’s something I’d like to pursue.”
Taylor Slamons-Spencer, also a junior, enjoyed the opportunity to learn something new.
“I think we’re really lucky because I don’t think a lot of other high schools get to learn this kind of thing,” he said. “I know a lot more now about things like where to put a microphone when you’re recording, and how to mix tracks and stuff like that. We’re lucky to have this early exposure to this technology.”
The “Play It Forward” CD release party will be 7-9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18, at Hampden Academy. Admission is $6, or $5 if you bring a nonperishable food item. The album will be on sale at the event for $6.99. All proceeds from admission and CD sales will benefit the Hampden Food Cupboard.