U-High Midway

Yearlong project to end with folk performance

Grace Zhang, Arts Editor

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After inviting in filmmakers, hosting performances, and collaborating with teachers from all schools, the music department concludes the “American Epic” Project this week by showcasing the featured recording machine and live performances.

The project evolved separately from the Kistenbroker artist-in-residence programs, but brought in directors Bernard MacMahon and Allison McGourty to present “American Epic,” a film about the earliest recording machines and practices. The machine was brought to the Corvus Gallery in Gordon Parks Arts Hall, and Nicholas Bergh, the engineer, started to put it together in the gallery May 29.

“You can walk by and just check it out as it’s being put together,” Rozalyn Torto, music department chair, said.

The recording machine is unique in that it is built with all original parts and is not just a replica of machines from the 1920s. Mr. Bergh searched the country for separate and loose parts from those original machines, but this one is the only one left in existence.

Students were given the opportunity to audition May 23 and then winners will record on the machine, completing the recording all in only one take.

On May 29, the Old Town School of Folk Music paired with Lab to host a faculty-only guitar social.

It’s like this whole project shows you if you have an interest in something, you can build a career around it, even if it’s kind of niche.”

— Rozalyn Torto, music department chair

On June 1, Hubby Jenkins, an African-American music educator and performer, will perform with his group, the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The Grammy Award-winning group aspires to preserve traditions and trace roots of folk music and educate their audience.

“His knowledge of folk music, specifically old-time African American music, is just really profound,” Ms. Torto said. “He’s like an educator and a performer at the same time.”

Throughout the week and the year, the music department collaborated with history and science teachers to bring in Mr. Bergh, Mr. MacMahon and Ms. McGourty to introduce context to music from the early 20th century. The music department invited middle school humanities classes and Michael Wong’s science classes to see the machine, as well as primary school students in Earl Shapiro Hall. In the high school, Ms. Torto and history teacher Naadia Owens paired to teach artwork and music from post-Civil War to the Great Depression, as well as introduce Hubby Jenkins.

The music teachers hope that the experience of bringing American Epic to Lab will be a catalyst for future courses or collaborations across subjects and classrooms, as well as inspire students to pursue their passions.

“It’s like this whole project shows you if you have an interest in something, you can build a career around it, even if it’s kind of niche,” Ms. Torto said, citing Hubby Jenkins and filmmakers of “American Epic” as examples. “I think that speaks to Lab students, because you might just build your own path.”

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Yearlong project to end with folk performance