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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

[whitespace] Daisy Asuega & Jessica Whittemore
Studio Heads: Daisy Asuega (left) and Jessica Whittemore in the recording studio

The Kids Are AllRight:
Schallenberger students get jiggy wid' it

AFTER COMPOSING music for 20 years, Thom Duell's first hit might come with the help of 360 third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders at Schallenberger Elementary School in Willow Glen. Duell, a full-time musician, plays for a "corporate band"--one that plays lots of corporate gigs, not one that's on a major label. At night, Duell works the late shift at the Soundtek recording studio in Campbell. When the music teacher at his son's school quit, Duell volunteered.

"I had no idea how to approach [the curriculum]," Duell says. "Kindergarten through second grade is easy. They just sing songs. The third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders are different. They are too cool for sing-along."

Thom came up with the idea of letting the kids record a CD from the ground up. First, he introduced the kids to musicianship. He put a C-major scale on the chalkboard and taught them the basics of songwriting: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. The kids were involved in everything from choosing the keys to the rhythm to the chords to the arpeggios to the song topic. The tempos range from pop to rock to soul to reggae.

At night, after taking all the suggestions, Duell would head to his studio and put their ideas to work on his music workstation. Then he'd record the results and play it in class. "They flipped out," says Duell.

Last Wednesday, the school chartered buses to the studio, where each class lent their voices to a song. The titles are indicative of what's on a kid's mind. "Ice Cream," "Horses," "Fast Cars" (about the Winston Cup), "Out in the Wild," "Mother Goose Rhymes," "The Flyers" (about the hockey team) and the cross-referential "Panda" (a hockey team made up of Panda bears). A parental advisory sticker won't be necessary.

Schallenberger's Home and School Club is funding the project. After the recording and mixing, which concluded last week, the CDs (1,000 are being pressed) should be available by the first week in May. With help from Silicon Graphics, a video for the song "Ice Cream" will accompany the release.

Back in my day, my music teacher made us sing "Do Re Mi." Duell's music lesson is one the kids will never forget. "I see how the kids need to be creative in that environment," says Duell. "It'd be great if it catches on at other schools. Allowing [the kids] to be creative is best, rather than teaching them the fundamentals, which bores them to tears."

Fourth-graders Courtney and Katie, who added their voices and input to the song "Out in the Wild," agree. "Before Thom, we sang songs and learned about music," says Katie.

"Now we're actually in a studio putting songs onto a CD instead of just singing a song we already knew," adds Courtney.

What are you going to do when the CD comes out? "Listen to it every day," says Katie. How about going on tour? "Yeah!" yells Courtney. "We could go on the Rosie O'Donnell show!"

The CDs, if any are left after the 360 parents and grandparents get theirs, will be available to the public. Leave a message for Duell at Soundtek: 408/378-4808.

Cheers, Matey

Thanks to all the bands for participating in last week's SFMX4: Salmon, Tribal Disco Noise, Jalopy Taco Stand, Concerning Eye, Stunt Monkey, Slow Gherkin, Monkey, IBOPA, Korea Girl, the Orange Peels, the Hi-Fives, New Sun Born, Tom Dick & Harry and Dub Nation. ... Those bummed by getting shut out of Terrastock II can rejoice that KFJC (89.7FM) will broadcast the bulk of performances from the space-rock festival. Tune into bands like Bevis Frond, Mudhoney, Azuza Plain and Olivia Tremor Control April 17-19.

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From the April 16-22, 1998 issue of Metro.

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