The studio and record label are significant milestones for the Music Makes Us program. Launched in late 2011, Music Makes Us is a joint effort of Metro Nashville Public Schools, Mayor Karl Dean, music industry and community leaders, that will lead the nation in music education.
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Due to unprecedented alignment among The Recording Academy, the Mayor’s Office, Warner Music Nashville and the school system, Pearl-Cohn High is the first school in America with a state-of-the-art recording studio and a student-run record label.
At an official ribbon-cutting, red-carpet ceremony Wednesday evening (May 8), members of the Warner acts The Farm and Gloriana “passed the torch” by presenting a guitar to the Pearl-Cohn students.
“We all wish we’d had this,” said The Farm’s Nick Hoffman. “This guitar represents….a model for every other high school in this country.”
“This studio and this label will change lives,” said Recording Academy national vice president Nancy Shapiro. Shapiro is a member of the Mayor’s Music Council.
“It made sense to me that Music City should have the best music education in the world,” said Mayor Karl Dean. “So I called up Nancy…I owe you, and the city owes you, for all that you do.”
“One of the things I’m really good at is asking other people to do all the work,” Shapiro joked. She called upon the Nashville NARAS chapter’s Producers & Engineers Wing and they, “installed this studio, worked on Saturdays and nights, literally on their hands and knees.”
Nationally known studio designer Steven Durr is a Nashvillian, as are P&E Wing members Jeff Balding, Chuck Ainlay, Ben Fowler, Julian King, Nick Palladino and Pearl-Cohn teacher and successful songwriter Sam Lorber. Shapiro recognized them from the podium, as well as representatives of the companies who donated gear, Nashville chapter president Jon Randall Stewart, NARAS Nashville executive director Susan Stewart and the chapter’s staff.
“It takes a village to have a state-of-the-art studio,” she explained.
“So many people have donated countless hours to making this thing a reality,” said Dean. “I do want to make a special thank-you to John Esposito and Warner Music Nashville. They have given these students a window to see what a real record label looks like.”
The student label, not yet named, will be mentored by WMN. The imprint’s executives will all be students. The roster will be multi-genre, via auditioning students from throughout the 81,000 enrolled in the Nashville system.
“There are students from 146 countries in our schools,” said Jesse Register, the system’s director. “We embrace the rich cultural diversity in our school system. This is the best access to the music industry of anyplace in the country.” He added that music has been proved to improve academic performance in other disciplines as well as graduation rates.
“Warner Music Nashville is thrilled to partner with Pearl-Cohn High School to create the first student-run label in the world,” said label vice president Scott Hendricks. He was standing in for Esposito, who was called away due to the death of his mother. “There’s a very good chance that these students will become leaders in music in the future.”
“We are so excited to have you here tonight….to the Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School, the only one in the country,” said school principal and event host Sonia Stewart.
Her school’s choir, directed by student Vincent Pitts and produced by rapper Vincent Zirker, performed an arrangement of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which was composed as “the Negro national anthem” in 1905. Afterward, media and dignitaries gathered in the new studio, which is more up-to-date than any commercial comparable one in town. People posed for photos with the Mayor at the multi-track control board.
“This place has a great vibe,” said Balding. “When you’re in here, you definitely don’t feel like you’re in a high school.”
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