At a strategic planning meeting for North Springs Charter School two years ago, parent Shelly Michael poised the question: ‘How can we be a music magnet program and not have a music recording studio?’

Simultaneously, music department leaders James Landreau and Van Craven were talking about creating a music technology program to stay competitive with programs about to be offered at Tri-Cities and Centennial High School.

Jonathan Bynoe performs in the recording studio while Justice Michael manages the audio equipment. (Jaclyn Turner)

North Springs has long been known for its choral and orchestral programs as part of its Performing Arts Magnet. But there’s another avenue to the music industry, and that’s the marriage of technology and the arts, as poetically termed by former North Springs English teacher and grant writer for the project, Judy Roseman. With the assistance of the Friends of North Springs, the music department began to seek funding to create the studio, which opened this year.

“In my mind, the story of how this recording studio came to pass, really shows the commitment and persistence of multiple community stakeholders, how that perseverance can have a positive impact on our school, and our students,” Principal Scott Hanson told the crowd at the March 7 ribbon cutting ceremony, which included Mayor Rusty Paul, members of the Fulton County school board and donors.

“Sandy Springs is the embodiment of what a community focus on our students should be. This recording studio represents the best of what our community believes about our school and children, and how our students are second to none in our state,” Hanson said.

Donations provided by the Sandy Springs Society, the city of Sandy Springs and the Sandy Springs Education Force were used to buy equipment, create a computer lab and studio and provide training. North Springs students now can use cutting-edge technology to perfect their musical craft. North Springs is the only school in Fulton County to have a recording studio, according to Craven and Landreau.

On March 7, two senior students, Justice Michael and Xavier Toodle-Jones demonstrated the equipment and explained its use while senior Jonathan Bynoe sang an original song in the soundproof studio. Craven said that sometimes these boys taught him how to work the software, as they already knew how to mix sound on computers.

“We have many students who want to be part of a music program, but they don’t want to be part of an ensemble. But they have some sort of understanding, ‘Oh, I’ve already worked on [the] “GarageBand” [program] and can put together this, and I write songs, ‘and now they can actually have an outlet, and they can take the class and don’t have to sit in an ensemble,” said Craven.

For those unable to fit the class into the schedule, the music department created a club called the Spartan Mixers to provide an afterschool outlet for those interested in getting involved with the technology. “The recording studio is the real life part of music technology,” Craven said. “Music technology, you can sit at any computer with a keyboard and learn how to use it, but that’s only one little portion of being able to do music technology.”

Cutting the ribbon on the new recording studio on March 7 were, from left, music teacher Van Craven; students Justice Michael and Xavier Toodle-Jones; Irene Schweiger, Executive Director at Sandy Springs Education Force; Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul; and Georgia Watts and Dottie Palmer from the Sandy Springs Society. (Jaclyn Turner)

The first big project for the class, involved collaboration with the film department to create a PSA for the Sandy Springs Police Department about keeping cars locked and valuables hidden.

The recording studio will allow students to use the space and software to make CDs if they want to apply to a music conservatory or a school for audio engineering or seek internships in the music and film industry.

“One of the big benefits is that we can focus more on the industry side of it, and they (the students) can walk out of here with real world-knowledge and experience,” Landreau said.

Paul related the growth of the recording industry to the recent rapid expansion of movie-making in Georgia. “One of the challenges for the state is having the trained talent that we need to be able to fulfill these new industries that we are having come into Georgia,” Paul said. “Having a facility like this to train the talent and get them prepared for the professional level is vital to the long-term success of the economy and Sandy Springs.”

“These kids have amazing tools available to them,” said Paul, who took his own spin in the studio, singing Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.”

“I have students all the time, who are having to go to a professional recording studio, and spending a good bit of money, just to put in an audition tape,” Craven said. “They have the ability to do that now. We have a studio that is comparable to any midlevel studio in Atlanta.”

–Jaclyn Turner

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