Ep. 138 Transcript

Disclaimer: This is transcribed using AI. Expect (funny) errors.

Mindy Peterson: [00:00:00] I’m Mindy Peterson. And this is Enhance Life with Music, a holistic look at the power of music and our everyday lives. Joining me today from Nashville are two guests from Writers Room U. Dr. Kelley King is the education liaison at Writers Room U. She is a K through 12 educator with over 35 years of experience in both public and private schools, including 20 years as a school principal. Kelley is the author of three books, and her work in schools has been featured on the Today Show, National Public Radio, and in Newsweek magazine. Also with me today is Emily Falvey. Emily is the music industry liaison at Writers Room U and as an award winning Nashville singer songwriter. She is signed to an exclusive worldwide publishing deal. She wrote a song that reached number one on the Canadian country chart. Emily teaches songwriting classes and leads writing room use recruitment of top music industry professionals. Welcome to Enhance Life with Music, Emily and Kelley.

Kelley King: [00:01:08] Thank you. Thanks, Mindy.

Mindy Peterson: [00:01:10] Great to have you both here. I’m really excited about this conversation, partly because of the very serendipitous way that it came about. I am is my job. I’m an institutional keyboard rep for Schmitt Music. And in this role I’ve been hearing a lot recently from both K through 12 schools and also from colleges about their interest in expanding or adding music production classes, their offerings. And in fact, I had recently, very recently had a conversation with a high school schoolteacher who had just finished her school’s very first, kind of like a beta test year of a music production class that they had. She had contacted me because they were looking to expand this very successful class by possibly buying a keyboard lab. And she was asking me if I knew of other high schools in the area who are doing this, because she was looking to kind of put their heads together and get some more ideas. And I had to tell her that all of the schools I knew of who were doing this were colleges. But I thought it was a fabulous idea to be offering this in high school for a range of ideas that we will get into. But right around this time, a former guest and shout out to Beth Slusher from Give a Note Foundation.

Mindy Peterson: [00:02:29] Beth gave me a call and reached out to clue me in to what you guys were doing there at Writers Room U. And so it was really exciting, the timeliness of that happening and partly because of that and really looking forward to learning more about what you’re doing and what you are doing from your website. This is what your website has to say about that writer’s room. You brings professional songwriters, artists and producers from Nashville and LA into K through 12 classrooms virtually. And I think you do this sometimes in person as well, to teach students about all aspects of the music industry, songwriting, music production and music business. And I want to start by just jumping right into the benefits that are there with bringing these music production and songwriting classes into K through 12 schools. One obvious benefit that I see right away is that this is a really great way to engage those students in music who aren’t going to be a good fit for your traditional band orchestra and choir programs in schools. But tell us about some of the other benefits of bringing these classes into schools and the benefits to what you’re doing?

Emily Falvey: [00:03:45] Absolutely. Well, I definitely think there are a lot and a lot of them are spelled out in part one of an article that Kelley so wonderfully wrote that was published actually on the given note website.

Mindy Peterson: [00:03:57] Yes. And I will link to that in the show notes because it’s a fabulous article. But yeah, keep going.

Emily Falvey: [00:04:02] It’s worth checking out. Yes. But I think that getting students more involved in music education in any way is obviously such a helpful thing. I think that it’s such a great way for students to get plugged in. It increases student excitement and engagement, and it’s kind of an unconventional way to connect students to steam or science, technology, education, art and math. And so it’s a great way to get students plugged in in a whole new way, in an unconventional way, while also pioneering new technology and allowing them to have a whole different tool in their toolbox.

Kelley King: [00:04:38] Yeah, I would just add to that that, you know, from the point of view of of the schools, it’s a fantastic way to create sort of signature programming in a school. You set it, Mindy, that this is really not being created in a lot of places. And so this is an amazing way to set a school apart in their marketing and in crowded school. Competitive school markets. And it’s a it’s a home run with students. It’s a home run with parents. And in terms of schools, they’re also just really organically creating those interdisciplinary learning experiences where they’re bringing a variety of disciplines like literacy into music and technology into music. And you get those maybe those computer tech kids who aren’t interested in music at all, and all of a sudden they’re in the music program. And then you get those music kids who are learning some incredibly value, valuable technology skills, because if they do want to pursue music creation, they need to learn the technology if they’re going to make it. So there’s just so many elements.

Mindy Peterson: [00:05:41] Yeah, and it is really neat you point this out in that article that we mentioned and that I’ll link to in the show notes. But you point out that this is such a great way to unite students and faculty, really teachers from different departments. You bring music students into technology, you bring technology students into music. And it’s really a great life lesson in this experience of working on this interdisciplinary team to create a product, a musical product that has real world use. And and you point that out in the article to how versatile these music products are that students come up with. These can be used for theatrical productions they can use be used for choral performances, they can be used for halftime shows and also for recording new school songs. A lot of times with schools that are trying to be a little bit more sensitive to different cultural aspects of mascots and things like that. And even in a local school near me, there was a situation where they had to completely redo their mascot because of a copyright type of infringement that had nothing to do with, you know, indigenous peoples or anything like that. But there’s a lot of schools that are having to rewrite their school songs. And this can be an exercise with really great real life application that these students can work on.

Kelley King: [00:07:09] Absolutely. Yeah.

Mindy Peterson: [00:07:10] And with school choice, a lot of school districts now do have open enrollment. They have school choice options. There’s charter schools. And so, as you mentioned, Kelley, this type of a programming can really attract and retain students. It can help a school distinguish itself from others when you when they are in this competitive school choice type of a market.

Kelley King: [00:07:33] Absolutely.

Mindy Peterson: [00:07:34] And I’ll just touch on that other article that you wrote that is also really phenomenal. And I will link to in the show notes, and that is your article that addresses underrepresentation of girls and women in music production. So we won’t take the time to get into that in today’s conversation, but it’s another really valuable topic that you really address and that are other articles. So I’ll include that in the show notes. Well, tell us how exactly this works. How does it work? If a school wants to partner with writers room you and partner with you in incorporating some kind of music production class in their school?

Emily Falvey: [00:08:15] Absolutely. Well, writer’s room is a joy. It’s been so fun to see the impact of how it’s reached students all across the United States. I work in my day to day life as a staff songwriter, and so what separates writers review from other organizations and other music education endeavors is that we have really deep insider access to the music industry. My personal relationships, as well as Kelley’s and other founders of our organization and teachers, are all working day to day in the music industry here in Nashville or in Los Angeles. And so we leverage our relationships to connect top music creators with K through 12 students all across the country. And we give those students an opportunity to work with real world industry professionals and help students see that music can be an exciting and legitimate career path.

Kelley King: [00:09:04] It’s natural. As a principal, we put on all kinds of programming with guest teachers. We could bring in career day, we’d bring in a banker and a lawyer and a doctor and that sort of thing. But it’s super hard in your community to look around and find a music producer or a session musician or a publisher or a songwriter to bring in. So that’s the kind of the connection we can give. So the first thing, really the first step is to talk to the school staff. Sometimes there’s a principal involved in music teacher, you know, and we sit down and we say, okay, what kind of programming interest do you have? What are the student ages? What is your schedule allow for? What’s the format? What’s your budget? Some schools will want to do once a week sessions over six weeks or eight weeks. We could do six sessions in just two weeks, you know, very flexible. We can also do one school we’re working with in Massachusetts wanted. To do a career in the arts panel. So every week they host it, we host it for them, a panel with guest music industry people, songwriters. There was a session on music business. There was a session on being a session musician in the recording studio. And so those were one hour segments that we did, a series of one hour sort of guest panels that we ran.

Kelley King: [00:10:23] So we look at all of those pieces and then we create. We have a couple models that really work, but we really customize to to meet the needs of the school that we once we know what they want when they need it, then Emily goes out and recruits and schedules the best music creators in the industry, whether they’re songwriters or producers, to be those guest teachers. And then we set up the schedule. We provide logistical support throughout. We observe and we coach our guests, music industry people, because they’re not trained teachers. However, it’s amazing how brilliant and how natural and how cool they are in a Zoom classroom. It’s like after 35 years in education and then these these young songwriters come on there and you can hear a pin drop in the classroom. Those kids are in the palm of their hand. And I’m like, How did they do that? But we’re coaching and supporting them and serving them throughout. We also support the school in terms of giving them press releases and information that they can put out to their local media to really celebrate their school. Emily, do you want to share about the in the case of the original music that they create?

Emily Falvey: [00:11:38] Yes. Well, it’s so fun because the songwriters bring in the skill set that they have. And so typically we’re able to connect. We’ve even involved, you know, music production students like we were just talking about the disparity of female music producers will have a teacher write the song with the class over the course of their instruction. And so they’ll have a tactile kind of souvenir from their class. And then we’ve involved music production students. We’ve tried to really prioritize having some females in there because of the lack of representation that’s really on our heart. And then they’ll put a demo together so the students all have something to listen to after the fact. And so the students will go through the process of having a song idea and then writing the verse to a song and writing the chorus. And then they kind of watch this song come to life, just as we would in Nashville from starting the song. And then by the end of the day, we have a demo that we leave the room with. And so that’s been really gratifying to get to see the students start with nothing and then leave the class with something and it’s really cool.

Mindy Peterson: [00:12:38] Sure. Well, I can only imagine how memorable these classes would be, and part of it is just the novelty of having someone other than your regular teacher. I mean, any of us who are parents know that someone other than the parents can come in and tell our kids anything. And our kids are like, Oh, really? You know, the parents are like, I’ve been telling you that. And it can be worked the same way, I’m sure, with teachers where the teachers could say the same thing. But you bring in a guest artist or a guest producer who is doing this out in the wild for real, you know, and I’m sure I can see why those kids are just eating it up and really enjoying it. And on top of that, I think it could really prove to be a great springboard for the teachers.

Kelley King: [00:13:23] Moving.

Mindy Peterson: [00:13:23] Forward once the project is complete, to have just this renewed energy within their students and ideas that would come out of it, either student led ideas or ideas that the teacher comes up with through being a part of this process. The other thing I was thinking about as Emily was talking about sort of the end product that they end up with, is this would really be, I would think, helpful for kind of equipping students both in technology and in music classes at a school for taking on projects that really help the school, audio visual projects that include background music or even that are spotlighting a song. There’s so many ways that schools can create videos and use them for promotional purposes or whatever. Even spotlighting, say, the superintendent, giving some kind of an update and making it fun and interesting for the the student body. And those would be projects that the kids would probably really get into and feel very equipped for after having gone through a class like this.

Kelley King: [00:14:31] Yeah, absolutely.

Mindy Peterson: [00:14:32] Well, one thing that all schools deal with is budgets. So if a school administrators listening to this and thinking, wow, this sounds great, but I’m sure my school won’t have the resources to make something like this happen. What would you have to say to them? What kind of costs are involved in starting a music production class in general and in bringing bringing in writers room you specifically for sure.

Emily Falvey: [00:14:56] I’ll start with kind of just talking about music production in general and. There really are not a lot of barriers to entry to becoming a music producer, even from a young age. You know, you see documentaries on Apple TV of Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas making the record, that one that swept the Grammys two years ago entirely in their bedroom. I feel like there’s kind of a whole world of music production that can be discovered through YouTube videos, Linda. There’s a lot of free resources out there. The main costs are just of hardware and software to get set up, which are really typically one time expenses. So, for example, if you’re going to be working in a digital audio workstation like Logic or Pro Tools, those have kind of an added cost, you know, and it kind of there’s tiers to those types of softwares, but there’s also free softwares that are native to your computer, such as Ryzen on Microsoft or there’s GarageBand, which is on every MacBook that’s ever been created. So there’s typically ways to get going that are pretty cheap and then getting us involved. Kelley I’ll let you take that.

Kelley King: [00:16:05] Yeah. And then as I referenced, we really we we operate based on one of the first things we look at is what is the budget of the school and that we can really cater it to do that in some ways that we do. That would be like number of sessions that we offer or perhaps it’s the number of students in the room we can. I sat in and assisted a class that the class was going to be a little bit larger with the songwriter, and the reason for that was to be able to keep their budget down. So he kind of worked with the class, so we make sure we can make it work, but generally. Oh, and then the other thing is like a panel. So we have offered some like a career fair guest panel and brought in three or four incredible talents to that room. And those generally would be like $500 as, as the basic price. But then we have some people in the music industry who we offer to pay. We pay them an honorarium. Sometimes they they give that money. They do not accept the honorarium. And we set those funds aside. And that gives us an additional sort of leverage to work with schools budgets. So we set those funds aside so that we can offer lower cost or in some cases, no cost offerings to to schools. It’s part of the way we want to give back.

Mindy Peterson: [00:17:31] That’s fantastic. And as as we’ve been having this conversation, too, the other thing I keep thinking of is what a great opportunity for these students to explore careers in music because there are so many students who love music. But when it comes down to What do I actually do with this? That can be a career path, that can put money on the table, put food on the table, and earn a paycheck. That can be sort of nebulous. Everybody knows who Taylor Swift is, but not everyone’s going to be the next Taylor Swift. And there’s so many other careers available in music, and this is a really great way to introduce and expose students to what those careers are so that they can pursue those and just be aware of them if they’re interested. Well, there’s so many other things in your article that are fantastic, and I won’t take the time to go into all of them because I know we don’t have time for that. But one other thing that I really enjoy about the article, that first article that you wrote, Kelley, that we’ve alluded to, is you have your top four recommendations for schools who are looking to bring some kind of a music production class in just ways that they can dip their toe in and get started.

Mindy Peterson: [00:18:45] And you point out that it does not require a big investment. And as Emily mentioned, also, it doesn’t require a lot of money up front. And in fact, a lot of the hardware that’s required is probably hardware that the school already has. A lot of schools already have a computer lab. Each student probably has some of that hardware in their back pocket, meaning their cell phone that could be used for some of these things. A lot of schools have iPads that are school issued iPads. So a lot of those hardware components are probably something the school already has and they can utilize in this different way. They may have an existing media arts lab or tech class that can be used to just expand a little bit with some of these classes. So with those top recommendations, I just want to touch on those before we’re out of time here. But you bring up the idea of bringing in a guest speaker into a steam or STEM classroom or a music classroom. This can be done via Zoom. I think you’re doing some in-person appearances, too, for local schools, is that right?

Kelley King: [00:19:51] We we haven’t yet gotten into the local schools in terms of in-person. We haven’t transitioned, that is the COVID. We are working with the school. However, in Boston, they oftentimes high school set up student travel trips and they want to bring a group of about 2025 high school music students to Nashville. And instead of just doing the tourist circuit like everybody wants to do, we’re working with them to develop a program in which they are going behind the scenes, into the recording studio, sitting in those writers rounds and getting that behind the scenes experience. So that will actually kind of be our that’s our big foray right now into the in-person experience and bringing kids to where it’s happening in Nashville. So it doesn’t just have to be something for the local kids, but it could be kids from all over the country.

Mindy Peterson: [00:20:44] Wow, that is so cool. Imagine how fun that would be to be able to do when you’re a high school student.

Kelley King: [00:20:51] So it’s so unique and it’s so impossible to create because teachers and student travel companies don’t have access to getting behind the scenes, behind the curtain where the work is happening. So that’s what’s so exciting about that piece that we can link the two and it’s super cool.

Mindy Peterson: [00:21:07] Yes, that is so cool. We already talked about the idea of adding in a career exploration class or focus within a classroom, which is another recommendation that schools can do to sort of dip their toe into this topic and expand their offerings to some extent. In the article you mentioned adding music production units to an existing music or media arts or tech class. And you mentioned that there are a lot of readily available online resources to help teachers create such a series.

Kelley King: [00:21:42] Absolutely.

Mindy Peterson: [00:21:42] Any other any other comments you want to make on that or any top resources that you want to mention?

Kelley King: [00:21:48] Yeah, I would just say that, you know, you don’t have to rewrite your whole curriculum for a semester. We’re talking about like a week and just stick a toe in that water. And there are some great resources. Intune magazine.

Mindy Peterson: [00:22:02] Offers a.

Kelley King: [00:22:02] Lot of teacher education resources focused on popular music education. And then there’s the also the Association for Popular Music that folks can check out online. And again, it’s about supporting educators with bringing that popular music in. And they get into all aspects of music creation in the popular music domain, which is where a lot of kids heads are, just start small, even for a week, and then maybe you do a one week unit and then you complement that by kicking it off or closing that one week unit with that guest speaker. And if people in their communities, if teachers in their communities don’t know of a music producer, they may not. They may, but they may not. Or they want to get in a songwriter or they want to get in a session player. I mean, that’s where they can call us and we say, We’ve got the perfect person for you and hook them up, even just for that 145 minute drop in via Zoom. Sure. We can kind of really help bring that to life, but the online resources are really pretty significant. And then then the other thing is, if you have if you’re sparking kids interest with these kinds of things, with a career couple career sessions on different jobs in the music industry and a short music production or a songwriting unit in an existing class, if you’re getting kids are interested, grab those two, three, five, ten kids and see if they want to start doing form a student club at their student at their school.

Mindy Peterson: [00:23:29] You know.

Kelley King: [00:23:29] There’s a ton of YouTube videos and music creation apps and like Emily said, like through cell phones even, you know, that they can really be supported by a faculty sponsor but be very student led and self taught and the faculty sponsoring the students can kind of learn and go into this new territory together. So it’s a great way to grow it. And if schools then get a student club that’s got a lot of kids interested in it, that’s how they sort of develop the student interest into then be the next year or the next semester being able to offer a class in music production.

Mindy Peterson: [00:24:07] Huh? Yeah. Love that idea. I will definitely include lots of links in the show notes, but tell us, for those listeners who are driving right now and aren’t going to be writing things down, tell us your website, the best place for listeners to go to get more information for sure.

Emily Falvey: [00:24:24] They can find us at WritersRoomU.com, or they can follow us on Instagram or our socials, which can also be found on the website. But it’s at WritersRoomU on Instagram.

Mindy Peterson: [00:24:36] Got it. Well, and one reason I love this topic as well, as I mentioned right at the beginning of our conversation, it brings in students to music education who otherwise just would not be the right fit and would not get involved in music. Ed And as we’ve talked many times on this show about we’ve talked about the one of the benefits of music training and music education being those social and. Emotional learning skills. And so bringing students into music in this capacity who wouldn’t otherwise be involved just brings them into contact with all of that skill, that social emotional learning that they otherwise may not have had a chance to be a part of. And I’ll definitely link in the show notes to some episodes that we’ve covered on SEAL, what it is and how to be even more intentional with incorporating those skills into the music education process. Well, this has been delightful. I love what you are doing with writer’s room. You look forward to staying in touch with you and keeping tabs on further developments like this, this class trip that students can take to Nashville. This behind the scenes trip, that sounds fabulous. I ask all my guests to close out our conversation with a musical ending coda by sharing a song or story about a moment that music enhanced your life. Do you have a song or a story that you can share with us today in closing?

Emily Falvey: [00:26:04] Absolutely. Thank you so much for your kind words, Mindy. We really appreciate you letting us be here. So the listeners today will be actually hearing a demo from one of our classes, which I think is a really special thing about writers room use. Again, there’s a souvenir from each class and so they will be hearing a demo from Forrest Finn, who is an incredible instructor. He’s a singer songwriter, signed me to entertainment here in Nashville. And the demo is kind of a story of the impact of songwriting in the lives of K through 12 students who take writers review classes. And Forrest wrote this song with a group of fifth graders and it’s called School Is Cool, which is an example of the collaborative process where a professional songwriter like Forrest, in a class of elementary schoolers team up to write a song about kind of the authentic things that are going on in their lives, which is really fun. Forrest is awesome and so talented, and now many students in his class have songwriting as a tool in their toolbox, and Forrest is an incredible producer. So he put together this demo himself, which was really cool to get to watch him kind of bring the song to life from start to finish. So y’all enjoy School is cool.

Transcribed by Sonix.ai