Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!
This is a clip that was passed to me this morning and I think is a good stage setter as we create music this week.
Students write Two Gun Cohen — ‘a really cool song’
Many aspiring musicians count themselves lucky if they can scrape together the cash to lay down a few tracks.
Through a Saskatoon Public Schools songwriting program, some high school students are now professionally-artists, and they couldn’t be more pleased.
“This class was just amazing. I’m a very musical person. It’s a huge part of my life. Just to be able to do this, and be at school, and enjoy what I was doing — it was sort of rare for me to enjoy being at school,” said Connor Johnson, who went to Nutana Collegiate.
The SWEAT program, which stands for Songwriters’ Education and Training, started three years ago as a collaboration between musician Jesse Davis Selkirk (known for his project, Sleepwreck) and some city high schools.
Last year, with the help of an ArtsSmarts grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board, SaskCulture, and the Ministry of Education, students from three high schools wound up at Pulsworks Audio Arts recording studio to commit their creations to tape.
Guitar students at Nutana Collegiate opted to write a song as a group, and stumbled across a historical Saskatoon character named Two Gun Cohen, teacher Brett Balon said.
Cohen, of British and Jewish heritage, found himself in Saskatoon’s Chinatown in 1919 when he became a hero who stopped an armed robbery, Balon said. Word of his bravery spread to a Chinese general, who hired Cohen to be his bodyguard.
“It’s a really cool song and it gives me a good vibe,” Nutana student and musician Charlene Moore said.
In addition to learning about songwriting, lyrics, and harmony, students also learned about history, racism, China, and poetry, Balon told the Saskatoon Public school board Tuesday night.
“We wanted to write about something important, not just another pop song,” Moore said.
Students who were once transient became engaged, showing up to class on time, ready to go, and curious about what they were doing that day, Balon said.
“I hear school has this reputation of being boring sometimes,” he quipped.
Students from Nutana, Centennial and Tommy Douglas Collegiates went into the studio to record six songs — an experience so exciting for Moore, she said she was nearly “peeing her pants.”
Johnson said most teens would never have access to those kinds of tools.
According to the Saskatchewan Arts Board website, schools across the province began receiving ArtsSmarts grants in 2009.
Last year, 16 Saskatchewan schools received the grants, which totalled more than $119,000.
Balon plans to apply again this year for his new crop of guitar pupils. If successful, it would be the third year for the program in Saskatoon high schools, he said.
“This is the thing I’m most proud of as an educator so far.”
What an exciting project. I hope to see many of our PS students creating similar projects in the future.
Here is what I know of my schedule so far for this week:
Tuesday: AM DO, PM Hepburn
Have a great week!