MUNCIE, Ind. — Tessa Chason, a senior at Ball State University, has spent her time in school learning about recording techniques, music production, songwriting and mixing.
This fall, the lifelong Muncie resident was able to bring her knowledge to middle schoolers at the Buley Center of the Boys & Girls Clubs with the Junior Producers Club.
The club, an afterschool program developed in partnership with Ball State’s music media production program, allows students to produce their own music on professional equipment.
“Teaching these kids and seeing them light up at the different things we were teaching them how to do, them figuring out how to do it by themselves, it just confirmed that this is what I enjoy doing,” Chason said.
Over the summer, Christoph Nils Thompson, co-director of the music media and production program and recording engineer, and Jeff Seitz, audio systems engineer, brought a truck load of production gear to the center.
For Thompson, the Buley Center, which serves the Whitely community, was an ideal spot.
“I always wanted to have something that would give people access to recording equipment, people who wouldn’t usually have the opportunity to just be exposed to that type of equipment,” Thompson said. “I know there’s always talent out there and it just takes opportunity.”
With both an excess of older equipment at Ball State and a grant that provided new technology, a studio was set up by the end of July at Buley, complete with professional headsets, instruments, microphones and desktop computers.
At the start of the semester, Thompson broke his class of nine into three groups, with each creating their own type of curriculum for the immersive learning project.
One group focused on music theory, while some students wanted to be more of a musical mentor for the kids, and others kept material more technical.
Every weekday, the rotating groups provided the middle schoolers with training. Some students wrote lyrics and recorded songs, while others recorded instruments to create beats.
“I was really amazed with some of the students who came in with no background in production and two weeks into it, they were already up and running these sequencers, like it’s second nature,” Thompson said.
For Chason, her favorite part was working with the kids.
“I think my favorite part was walking in there and knowing that they were scattered from their school day,” Thompson said. “We gave them a chance just to calm down, breathe and actually have fun doing an after-school activity.”
Two brothers, Justin and CJ, stood out to her. While the older brother, Justin, was talented at making beats, CJ took to recording more.
“It was just cool to see that they grew up together, but they had interests in different things,” Chason said.
While the middle schoolers were learning the basics, the Ball State students were honing their teaching skills.
Thompson said he can teach about music theory and production all day, but people skills are the most important.
“Clients a lot of times are, I don’t want to say they’re like middle schoolers, but a lot of times you have to be able to turn on a dime for a client,” Thompson said. “You have to be able adapt how you explain something so that someone who is not in music production understands it right away.”
Even though the semester has ended, Thompson plans to keep Junior Producers Club going through the school’s Audio Engineering Society.
With its popularity at the Buley Center, the program also will be brought into Muncie Community Schools.
“This is not so much that everyone who goes into this should come out as a music producer, but the skills we teach are completely universal,” Thompson said. “We teach software skills, we teach basic math, basic physics, all those things are involved in music production, and it’s all about opportunity.”
Chason, who is vice president of the Audio Engineering Society, said she sees herself going back to the Buley Center and also helping kids at MCS.
She hopes the program can extend to older students in high school to expose them to music production before college.
“Because I grew up in Muncie, I know that there’s not really anything to tell kids about music media production and audio production,” Chason said. “It’s just showing the kids another way, not just academics. I feel like we helped open their eyes to the different possibilities they could follow as they get older.”
Charlotte Stefanski is a reporter at the Star Press. Contact her at 765-283-5543, email@example.com or follow her on twitter @CharStefanski.
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