Four and a half years ago, a teacher from one school recommended that another teacher at a different school check out LiveConnections Bridge Sessions. That second teacher, Ezechial Thurman, and his school, Henry H. Houston School, quickly became Bridge Session regulars.
As the relationship grew, we started to talk about what else might be possible. How else could LiveConnections support Zeke’s work at Houston School? What would a bigger, deeper, more expansive project look like?
The result was a year-long, cross-curricular residency at Houston School that resulted in our collaborative “A Day in My Life” album.
Fast forward: This past school year, Zeke moved to Hill-Freedman World Academy, a district high school in Northwest Philly, to start a music technology program. He taught the entire 10th grade computer-based music production and composition as part of Hill-Freedman’s International Baccalaureate Programme.
And LiveConnections went along with him.
LiveConnections got involved to help students develop their original compositions. We brought Philadelphia Poet Laureate Yolanda Wisher to lead a poetry-writing residency. Students wrote about personal struggles and what runs in their families. They wrote verses inspired by the imagery of color and poems driven by what Yolanda called “John Henry” level hyperbole. They then joined their writing with their music compositions, with additional support from LiveConnections artist/songwriter/producer Andrew Lipke. Founding director David Bradley guided the process.
Zeke envisioned making a small album to culminate the first year of the music studio. Then students approached him, inspired by their learning, eager to dive into album production. As students poured over the wealth of material generated over the course of the year, the planned 16-track album grew into a 29-track debut album from Hill-Freedman Records, “First Verse.”
We love that the project got bigger than anticipated. We love that students took the initiative to take their work to the next level. We love that a simple connection so many years ago has grown into a long-lasting partnership.
And we’re looking forward to partnering again with Zeke and Hill-Freedman next school year, reaching toward our collective ambitions: to showcase distinctive student voices, to employ rigorous processes, and to foster collaborations between top artists, educators and arts organizations in the city.
Who knows what the second verse will be?
Listen to the album
Hill-Freedman World Academy is a special admission middle and high school in Northwest Philadelphia. We proudly serve students with a variety of backgrounds, talents, and needs. Hill-Freedman World Academy provides a rigorous academic environment that inspires individuality and fosters lifelong learners who are committed to being knowledgeable, caring, internationally-minded global citizens. Hill-Freedman is a school where “All Means All” and where students are challenged and encouraged to develop their talents, even those yet to be discovered.
School Faculty & Administrators:
Anthony Majewski, Head of School/Principal
Ezechial Thurman, Music Technology Teacher
Project lead: David Bradley, Founding Director of LiveConnections
Poetry & songwriting: Yolanda Wisher
Music composition & production: Andrew Lipke, Ezechial Thurman