In a cozy recording studio, a handful of Montecito Union School fourth-graders were decked out with big headphones and singing loudly into microphones while watching their teacher, Lanny Sherwin.
Sherwin was lip-syncing the words to the kids’ song, which they wrote, called “Bob, the Green Penguin,” while they laid down the track.
For all of the students, it was their first crack at recording their own song in a real studio, a cumulative effort of the songwriting class Sherwin teaches at the school, 385 San Ysidro Road. They started last fall and the kids get together once a week for an hour-long class where Sherwin helps them learn the basics of songwriting.
“Everybody’s brought up listening to music, but nobody really knows much about writing music,” Sherwin explained.
The kids get to learn collaboration and sometimes even have their ideas not chosen.
“It enhances what the kids are learning in class as far as language arts and using metaphors,” said Sherwin, who owns his own recording studio, Sandman Records.
After talking about what they want the song to sound like, Sherwin goes home and comes up with the melody of the song, returning the next week to introduce it to the class.
The first song they tackled, Sherwin admits was a silly one. “Bob, The Green Penguin” was created to get the kids warmed up and comfortable sharing their ideas, he said.
It’s intimidating for anyone to share their creative offerings, but Sherwin said the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders are still open to sharing and lack a lot of the self-consciousness of adults.
“Even the song, ‘Bob, The Green Penguin,’ has some great metaphors and descriptive words,” Sherwin said.
Another MUS teacher, who is involved in emergency preparedness, suggested the students write a song about earthquake safety for MERRAG, Montecito’s Emergency Response & Recovery Action Group.
The school had just taken part in a statewide earthquake drill. “The kids really got into that,” Sherwin said. Within about 45 minutes, they had written the song, aptly titled “Drop, Take Cover and Hold On.”
Click here to hear a clip of the students performing the song. One radio station has even said it will play it over the air.
A parent of one of the student songwriters owns a recording studio and donated the time to lay down the tracks of the songs they’ve done.
Alexandra Wolf, one of Sherwin’s students, said she’d never been in a recording studio before and really enjoyed the experience.
“It’s fun,” she said. “You might not get to do something like this any other time, so I really appreciate it a lot.”
The class is independent from the school’s music program, but has been able to supplement the already existing music classes.
“It enhances it, because it just looks at it from a whole different angle,” Sherwin said.
Sherwin is hopeful that the class will resume in the winter session.
“This is a great learning opportunity for me to see all the different avenues where we can go with this,” he said.
— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.