- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) - It’s been a dream of Florence school system officials for nearly three years to open a state-of-the-art recording studio.

On Monday morning, the dream became a reality with the ribbon cutting and opening of a studio that the area’s musicians and music producers say is equipped to propel students to success.

“To have the opportunity at the high school level to make and record music puts kids on a successful path early on,” said local musician, songwriter and producer Gary Nichols.

Nichols has taught music classes, primarily guitar and songwriting, the past two years at Florence High School. He said the new recording studio allows a full experience for students in their musical pursuit.

“It’s not about teaching a rock and roll lifestyle but just all things related to music, from reading it, to playing it and recording,” he said. “These students can really thrive here. I think everyone knows the musical talent we have in this area, and there’s a lot of new talent right here within these walls, and it’s time to shape this new generation.”

The studio, which has been in the planning stages for more than a year, came about as a result of a $50,000 financial gift from Wes and Marcy Oberholzer. Florence Superintendent Janet Womack publicly thanked the couple, along with Nichols for “believing in developing the talents and dreams of our next generation of musicians.”

“Our intent was to create something where any recording star in Nashville, or in the nation for that matter, would be proud to record in,” Womack said.

Sheffield music producer and NuttHouse Recording Studio owner Jimmy Nutt was an adviser on the project, and called the end result “exciting and exactly what we’d hoped it would be.”

The addition of the new studio and its associated classes are part of the Florence Academy of Fine Arts, now in its third year. The program consists of 118 classes across the fine arts spectrum with about 1,200 student participants.

Jerry Foster, director of the school’s fine arts academy, said the addition of the recording studio is about tapping deeper into the area’s wealth of musical talent, adding the greatest talent in the state, possibly the nation, hails from the Shoals.

“We tell kids to live their dreams, now we’re allowing them do it right here, in this place,” Foster said.

Florence High School Principal Lynne Hice agreed, calling the new recording studio “a magical place.”

“To see these musicians playing music with our students and pouring their knowledge and expertise into them, it’s absolutely magical.”

About 20 students are participating in the music/recording program, but officials expect significant growth with the completion of the studio.

Florence freshman Christian Maybrey is pursuing a career in music, starting now. He said he fully expects the new studio with its equipment and solid instruction to catapult him to a successful career in music.

“These facilities are totally out of this world,” he said. “I’m the luckiest guy here to have access to this and be a part of all this to make my dreams of being a professional musician come to pass. I fully believe that my instruction here and the gains I make will be a huge step to getting me heard on the Muscle Shoals music scene. We couldn’t be in a better place for music.”

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Information from: TimesDaily, https://www.timesdaily.com/

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