Five Blair students win songwriting contest

May 5, 2005, midnight | By Grace Harter | 16 years, 8 months ago

Students create original song and music video on John Lennon bus

Five Blair students won the John Lennon songwriting contest and spent Thursday, May 5 writing and recording an original song with three other students. The contest was sponsored by the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, the National Education Association (NEA) and the racial unifying organization Oneness.

Photo: The John Lennon Bus made a stop at Blair in the teacher parking lot on Thursday, March 5 as part of the John Lennon songwriting contest. Blair produced five contest winners who were given the unique opportunity to record an original song.

Blazers sophomore Edward Byrd, senior Dominic d'Eustachio, junior Jeffrey Holiday, senior Tamea Stover and senior Will Timpson were chosen to spend a day on the John Lennon bus and record an original song. Later they produced a music video for the song. They were joined by Julian Chavez-Talley of Duke Ellington High School, Jasmine Martin of Friends Central High School and Virginia Blair of Loudon Valley High School. Each of the contest winners were chosen for their musical ability and a submitted essay or lyrics to an original song.

Blair was chosen as the site for the recording of the song and production of the music video primarily because of its large population and the school's myriad of art programs, not because the majority of winners were Blair students, said NEA's spokesperson Staci Maiers. The NEA was hoping to attract support for their Read Across American campaign by offering students the unique opportunity to create music in a professional environment.

Photo: Seniors Dominic D'eustachio (Left) and Will Timpson (Right) make their way onto the John Lennon bus for a look at the recording studio, eager to begin the production of a both a song and music video over the course of the day.

The John Lennon Bus was created in 1998 by program Executive Director Brian Rothschild. The program was launched the year following the creation of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, a competition which encouraged young people to compose original songs and music scores. Rothschild decided to use Lennon as the figurehead of his organization because of Lennon's iconic status and strong belief in music education.

In order to secure the rights to Lennon's name, Rothschild contacted Lennon's famous widow Yoko Ono who approved of the idea and gave Rothschild legal permission for them to use Lennon's likeness. "John believed in promoting music literacy for kids," said bus engineer Doug Lubowitz. "He was also a bit of a rebel."

The contest winners' day began at around 8 a.m. when they were herded in front of the bus for interviews and pictures with local press, while other Blair students were able to take quick tours of the bus's facilities. The tour bus is divided into two halves; the first functions as a kitchen and a multimedia mixer while the back functions as a recording studio. In between the two rooms are three tiny bunks for the bus's three engineers, Lubowitz, Steve Miller and Robert Healy, to use while on the road.

Photo: Doug Lubowitz gives a brief tour of the recording studio and explanation of the song writing contest to Blair students and faculty.

The engineers live on the bus and travel the country for 10 months every year. "We're here to guide, assist and work hard for them to get a good product," said Lubowitz. He and Miller speak highly of the other students they've worked with. Throughout the day Miller proudly displayed a music video they shot in an earlier competition on the bus monitor in order the clarify the purpose and end result of the recording session.

All three are music aficionados and have worked with instruments and harmonic engineering throughout college. Miller expounded on his love of music and why he believes the John Lennon bus is so important to kids, and said that it is vital that students "[use] music as a medium to get your word out."

In addition to helping out in the songwriting contest, the engineers also tour around with bands such as the Black Eyed Peas and appear at concerts like the WARPED tour and the JazzFest. The bus showed signs of wear and tear from musicians; Miller fondly pointed out a speaker which had been blown out by a member of the Black Eyed Peas.

Photo: The Blair contest winners produced and recorded a new song all in one day with the help of the John Lennon bus staff.

The knowledge that the bus had been used by famous musicians added to professional aura of the bus. To use a private studio of the same magnitude would probably cost a few thousand dollars, Lubowitz estimated. Fortunately, students are able to produce a song and music video free of charge.

Although the bus was full of high-tech equipment, it was still able to comfortably house the entire group of musicians in the back chamber while a growing group of reporters sat and watched the students on a monitor in the front of the bus. Representatives from BET, ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS, the Gazette and WTOP all appeared to cover the story throughout the day.

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Grace Harter. Grace Harter is currently a CAP senior at Blair. She loves anything British, books, music, movies and of course Silver Chips Online. She'd like to close with a quote from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" that is especially profound (and makes reference to her ultimate favorite … More »

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