ROCKPORT, Maine — For nearly 200 middle school students from midcoast Maine, recordings of their favorite artists may never sound the same after this year when they designed, produced and distributed their own professional-quality CD of holiday tunes.
Music teacher Allysa Anderson wanted to go beyond the traditional curriculum and rehearsals this holiday season by offering her students at Camden-Rockport Middle School a glimpse behind the scenes of the professional music world.
So for the past several months, 185 students in grades five through eight have been on a crash course in music production, touring professional studios and learning all that it takes to not only record, but also produce a CD. The project was supported by Youth Arts, a Camden-area nonprofit.
After weeks of preparations, it was show time Saturday as roughly 110 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders gathered at Camden Hills Regional High School to make the final recording. The fifth-grade choral group will record later this week.
A production crew from Main Street Music Studios in Bangor supplied the equipment and know-how.
Standing before risersful of giggling and fidgety seventh- and eighth-graders, Anderson tried to keep the group energized as they practiced the fast-paced holiday classic “Sleigh Ride.”
“You’re working very hard, and it is going to pay off,” Anderson said.
It took three full takes and a few false starts, but the group eventually got a nod from the sound engineers. And with that, the students flooded off the stage and ambled toward the doors, where they also picked up their order forms for CDs.
Proceeds from the “Simple Gifts Holiday Songs” CD will go back into the school’s music program. But Anderson said the project’s principal intent was to expose the students to the music business.
“It’s a way to enhance the curriculum, to raise the bar and raise the rigor,” said Anderson. “This has really all been inspired by the children. They are a great group of kids. They’re not only very motivated, they are also very musical.”
Several students said the project opened their eyes to how much effort goes into professional recordings.
“For us, it was a lot of work,” said Hope Orsmond, a seventh-grader from Camden.
Despite the work, most students seemed excited about being featured on a CD, which also will make a convenient holiday gift for family members, they said.
“It was fun but also really hard because it is sort of intimidating to see a microphone in front of you,” said eighth-grader Tori Arau of Rockport, who also plays a flute solo in one of the songs.
Adam Hamilton agreed the project was fun and challenging.
“I feel special because … I don’t think any other choruses are doing this,” said Hamilton, whose mother, Elena, also helped organize the project.
Of course, the students’ work is not over. After Main Street Music Studios finishes mixing the recordings and produces the CDs, the students will be responsible for packaging and distributing them.
CDs will be available for $10 each from the Camden-Rockport Middle School office, at the annual Christmas-by-the-Sea celebration in Camden on Dec. 3, and at the school’s holiday concert on Dec. 14.