Artists will involve students in documentary

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SOPHIE HINERFELD

HISTORY THROUGH MUSIC. Folk singer Pokey LaFarge preforms at the ‘American Epic’ inaugurating event on Oct. 6 in Gordon Parks Arts Hall. “American Epic”artists Allison McGourty and Bernard McMahon hope to use music to teach students about the history of the recording industry.

"American Epic"

Priyanka Shrijay, Opinion Editor

The Kistenbroker Family Artist in Residence Program has brought artists to the Lab Schools with the goal of furthering interaction between students and the arts. Kicking off the program are Allison McGourty and Bernard McMahon, creators of an acclaimed three-part BBC/PBS documentary about the birth of the recording industry, “American Epic.”

Music department chair Rozalyn Torto wanted to bring Ms. McGourty and Mr. McMahon to Lab after orchestra teacher Michelle Miles saw and was fascinated by the first part of the “American Epic” documentary, which is about the one-take recording machine which emerged during the roaring ’20s.

Ms. McGourty and Mr. McMahon will be available to students for a period of time during each quarter of this school year. They will teach students about their documentary and the history of the recording industry. They will also be available to students if they have any inquiries about the project and their own possible involvement. The Kistenbroker Family Artist in Residence Program provided the perfect opportunity to bring McGourty and McMahon to Lab, according to Ms. Torto.

Music is a vehicle for bringing the American Epic history, research and stories to every department and school.”

— Allison McGourty

Ms. Torto said that the Kistenbroker Artist in Residence Program developed at around the same time as the music department’s “American Epic” endeavor. Throughout the last year, the music department conversed with Ms. McGourty and Mr. McMahon and the Lab administration and were able to launch the “American Epic” project as part of the Artist in Residence Program.

According to Cynthia Heusing of the Kistenbroker family, bringing in the “American Epic” team was an exemplary way to inaugurate the Artists in Residence program with a year-long project involving all grades.

The “American Epic” project’s interactiveness is a considerable part of its appeal as the first installment of the Kistenbroker Artist in Residency Program, according to Ms. Heusing.

She said, “We hope that the program will offer new avenues for “learning by doing,” for Lab students, and enhance what is already a dynamic arts program.”

Ms. McGourty emphasized interactivity, noting that she is excited to work with student ambassadors to bridge the gap between the project and the student body.

“They will bring the student voice to the forefront,” she said. “The group will plan interactions and meetings between the Artists in Residence and Lab students.”

With the first installment of the program, Ms. McGourty hopes to use music to encourage learning in all departments.

She said, “Music is a vehicle for bringing the American Epic history, research and stories to every department and school.”

The Artist in Residency Program’s first event, a music festival in Gordon Parks Arts Hall, was led by Ms. McGourty and Mr. McMahon on Oct. 6.

At the event, Mr. McMahon drew a connection between Lab’s founder John Dewey’s philosophy and the “American Epic” teachings about the recording industry.

“Dewey also said that he considered that art was one of the most powerful forms of communication and that every person is an artist in their way,” he said. “And I think the people who made these very first electrical sound recordings embody that.”