Prince William Students Produce Videos and Albums

Woodbridge High School students just released a rock, rap, hip-hop and folk album,
Woodbridge High School students just released a rock, rap, hip-hop and folk album, "Salmagundi," the third produced by the school's music club. (Courtesy Of Shannon Gunn)
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By Ian Shapira
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 10, 2009

Political campaigns interested in emulating President Obama's multimedia success might want to consider tapping tech talent in the Prince William County school system.

Prince William students are making digital movies and music with computer software and uploading the material on Apple's iTunes or submitting it to film contests.

At the Pennington School, which teaches students in kindergarten through eighth grade, students learning "digital storytelling" produce short films using video clips from the Internet and, in some cases, incorporate their own footage. With the help of Microsoft Windows Movie Maker, fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eight-graders under teacher Charlene Murphy have made about 50 movies, some of which were showcased last week at Pennington's second annual art gala.

"We've had a couple documentaries. Some girls did one on human trafficking," Murphy said. "The technology is moving so fast, but many kids don't know how to take it and create something useful. With people this age, it's almost like they have to keep up."

Some of the movies have been or are being submitted to contests such as that of the National History Day organization, a nonprofit group at the University of Maryland at College Park, Murphy said.

At Woodbridge High School, Shannon Gunn, a music technology teacher, is leading a course and after-school club on producing compositions with the music notation software Sibelius. Students just released a rock, rap, hip-hop and folk album, "Salmagundi," the word for a 17th-century English assorted salad dish that signifies the diverse nature of the album's genres. The album can be downloaded not only on iTunes, but also via Amazon and Rhapsody; proceeds will fund audio and recording equipment for the school's music club, which is called the Polyphonix Records Club, the school system said.

It is the club's third album and the first released on iTunes, Gunn said.

"We have one artist in our class that has a producer in New York. He goes up there and has all his recordings done up there," Gunn said, laughing with slight disbelief.

Students in her composition class make the music, and those in the club put that music onto CDs, recording and mixing it with sound effects that make the raw music sound like something that could be bought in a store.

"We use Sonar software," she said. "The club takes the audio, and they add pan drums or reverb. Add a bunch of compression and sound effects, and it makes it sound more professional."

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