- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2008

ANNAPOLIS | Annapolis High School ninth-grader Cody Juba, also known as hip-hop artist Lil’ Cody, recently mock-produced a record with tracks such as “Last of the Dying Breed” and “Before My Time Comes.”

The album was the main project in a program designed to get ninth-graders excited about high school. Along the way, they learn math and writing in the Summer Bridge Program.

“I was learning a lot about the record business, how it’s run, all the work that has to go into it, the people behind the scenes,” Cody said. He added that the project showed him what he’ll need to learn if he wants to work in the music business.

“I didn’t know how it was related to school,” he said.

Record producer Sekani Williams developed the Record Label program for teenagers at the YMCA. With his assistance, Annapolis High teachers, who are on 12-month schedules, made it a core element in their second annual Summer Bridge Program.

Some 120 of 400 incoming ninth-graders attended the three-week Summer Bridge this year.

“I wanted to expose them to the reality of the music business, so they’d understand how songs get on the radio,” Mr. Williams said. “You need mathematics, you need English. This shows them a side of entrepreneurship.”

Student teams worked to create an artist, album, record label and develop a marketing plan. Using PowerPoint presentations, they pitched their records to Mr. Williams and their instructors.

One group promoted an album by Koraze called “Cost of Love.” The song list included “Catch and Release,” “My Gangster Boo,” and “I Wanna Wife You.”

Their marketing plan included publicity on MySpace.com, YouTube.com, iTunes, MTV and satellite radio.

Another team pitched an album called “United We Stand.” Tracks included “Chained,” “Walk Away” and “Love and Hate.” The musical genre was a blend of hip-hop and rock, a decision made after they mapped data indicating trends in music sales.

“It was fun being able to see other people’s creative sides,” said Byshop Keim, 15, the “artist” on the team. Students had to work together to finish the project, and that built trust and friendship among the Summer Bridge students, he said.

Teens relate to music, said Eric Elston, a career counselor at Annapolis High.

“We’re always looking for things that think out of the box,” he said. “We don’t have to stay in the traditional side. We can get a mix to really reach the kids.”

Some English teachers at Annapolis High are considering adding the Record Label project into their classes this year, according to Eugene Whiting, assistant principal.

During the program, students went to the Arlington Echo outdoor education center for confidence training and to the Philip Merrill Environmental Center for a biology lesson on the Chesapeake Bay .

Participants who showed good attendance and behavior went to Six Flags as a reward. But the best part was the Record Label project, students said.

“The highlight was meeting a record producer,” Cody said. “It was a fun experience, not like anything I’d gone through before.”

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