New York college kids take country music class
As Bronx college kids harmonized in their auditorium and pulled basic chords on ukuleles and guitars, their music teacher, Liz Rose, a Grammy-winning country songwriter from Nashville, Tennessee entered.
Rose wrote a museum for some of the biggest names in the business, including Taylor Swift. But on that recent fall day, she helped 19 students write an original song called “Everybody’s Perfect.”
“You guys are all awesome,” Rose said as she approached the stage. “You all made me cry. “
Country music and New York City don’t mix; the city has only one country radio station, which went on the air two years ago after 17 years without any. Nonetheless, Nashville Musicians, also known as Music City, are teaming up with a non-profit organization that offers music education in New York City schools to help make it a core subject.
Students from Pelham Gardens Middle School in the Bronx are among 500 students from 15 schools across the city to participate; they get 10 lessons on how to write lyrics, and a class in each school has a video conference session with a musician in Nashville.
The Nashville-New York connection is established through the Country Music Association Foundation, which began in 2006 to help fund music education programs in Nashville and is spreading across the country.
In recent years, he has donated to the New York-based nonprofit Education Through Music, which helps provide music education to all students in 50 low-income elementary and middle schools. He also works with Words & Music in Nashville, which offers a program for music and language arts teachers to develop their language skills through songwriting.
The Country Music Association Foundation wanted to bring the two together and the program was born.
Rose, who won a Grammy with Swift for Best Country Song in 2010 for “White Horse,” first met her students on Skype. Rose helped them write the lyrics for the song, which they performed last week at All for the Hall, a benefit concert for educational programs at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square. The students shared the stage with music stars Brad Paisley, Paul Simon and Carrie Underwood.
For many New York kids, country music was unfamiliar territory.
Corey Stuckey, 12, said he was inspired to write songs in the past by hip-hop and R&B artists such as R. Kelly and Ludacris. But now it is also opening up to the country.
“I love country music because of its tone,” said the seventh grader. “It’s a bit like reggae, but it’s different because it’s more calming.”
Rose said she applies the same techniques she uses when working with professionals. She asked the students to shout whatever they had in mind, and they said things like “older kids are tall”, “ice cream” and “hallways”. She quickly wrote down everything they said, then began to put the words together like puzzle pieces.
“It’s no different for the person you’re writing with. It’s about getting them to talk, ”she said. “And then I would ask them questions and put a line together. “
Eventually, they wrote “Everybody’s Perfect,” a song about the hardships of life in a new school.
Moesha Masters, 11, helped find inspiration for the title.
“I moved around a lot and it was hard to make friends,” she said. “And I realized that I am not perfect. But after watching this I realized that everyone is perfect in another way.
“Ice cream, cash and MetroCards and full backpacks and school is tough!” the students sang. With a catchy and catchy melody, the student song sounded more like Taylor Swift’s country pop than old country twang.
Peter Pauliks, director of music education programs, urged students at the rehearsal to say every word so that a diverse audience understands the song’s message.
“In Nashville, I don’t think they even have MetroCards,” he told them.
Kyle Young, of the Country Music Hall of Fame, says he was moved when he saw the students on stage at All for the Hall, dressed in their blue school uniforms under T-shirts for Words & Music and Education Through Music.
“This is why we are going to work every day,” he said. “It’s about giving children the opportunity to express themselves and create. “