- Associated Press - Friday, December 22, 2017

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - Class is in session, but there isn’t a textbook to be seen.

Instead of a blackboard on the wall, it’s a large, glass window separating the recording room from the studio.

As is evident by the students hunched over a computer monitoring levels while a classmate sings and strums a guitar on the other side of the window, Nathan Ward’s advanced audio productions class at Joplin High School isn’t a typical classroom experience.

“This is like shop class but for music,” he said Thursday.

The Joplin Globe reports that the audio and visual department at Joplin High School features a real-world-style recording studio and sound room. It is so similar to a professional setup, in fact, that the students recently released a Christmas album they recorded and produced as part of the class.

“Eagle Records Christmas” features 11 Christmas songs and is available on Spotify, iTunes and Apple Music. Ward said the project made sense for his advanced class in part because of the time it would take to produce an entire album.

“We’ve always kind of wanted to do an album of cover songs and things like that,” he said. “These kids are super talented, and so it was really easy just to say ‘OK, guys, what do you want to do this semester as far as your projects go?’ And we kind of came up with the idea of doing a Christmas album. And that gave us a really good timeline starting in August to have it ready and have it produced and done by December in order to have enough time for everybody to kind of buy it and listen to it and enjoy it for Christmas.”

Abby Brower, a Joplin junior who recorded the vocals for “Santa Claus is Back in Town” on the album, said the hands-on nature of the project has taught her about several aspects of audio production.

“I learn the best by being - if someone would be like, ‘Hey this is how you do it,’ maybe go over it with me a couple of times and then just like throw them in and figure it out, and that’s what I’ve been able to do in here.”

Senior Nathan Vainio said he plans to go to college in California and hopes to pursue a career in music. Ward’s class, he said, motivates him to stay involved with school in a way most classroom settings don’t.

“I’m actually really thankful for this class because I hate school,” he said. “So I’m really thankful for the studio down here. It kind of like equips us for leaving high school. Instead of getting out of high school (and) then trying to learn everything, we already have all the basics learned.”

Ward said students, particularly those with musical talents, have gravitated to his class in part because of the reward of having a tangible, usable product at the end of the semester.

“They can take this (the album) home, they can show their parents, they can show their families,” Ward said. “This is something that they’re really excited about.”

Ward also cited appreciation for the new high school, its space and features that serve as a creative outlet for the students.

“These kids have the ability to build these products and put out their own music,” he said. “It’s also very informational. They get a whole lot out of this as far as being able to go out into the world and get a job as an audio engineer or as somebody that can run audio for a TV station or for a concert or something like that.”


Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

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