Kingston lays down the beat

Kingston High students Ben Hanson, left, and Kolby Wagoner listen to Ben Spicer during a recording arts class at the school. The class is working on a project to produce audio clips for a Gordon Options dinner theater. - Brad Camp/Staff photo
Kingston High students Ben Hanson, left, and Kolby Wagoner listen to Ben Spicer during a recording arts class at the school. The class is working on a project to produce audio clips for a Gordon Options dinner theater.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff photo

Students find their groove in recording studio.

KINGSTON — Strange noises filter out from the last room on the right along the hallway in Kingston High’s main building.

On Wednesday afternoon cats were meowing and lightening and thunder were a-crashing. But there were no felines to be found and not a single angry cloud darkened the sky above KHS.

The room of peculiar sounds is where the 135 students enrolled in the two-year career and technical education recording arts/video program lay down the beats and/or sound effects.

The course oversflows with real-life learning relevancy, as it packs in science, physics, music composition and theory, art and electronics.

Once students complete the two-year program and graduate they’re pretty much ready to take on the music world. It’s only offered at KHS at this time.

“In theory they’re entry level at any recording studio or TV studio,” said instructor Richard Pullen who developed the program nine years ago and first started it at Spectrum in 2000. “They’re really ready for little companies that make Web sites and dub audio.”

In fact, the program Pullen developed is so stellar for students it’s been recognized twice by the Grammy Foundation’s Signature Schools Program. The Signature Schools program has recognized top U.S. public high schools that are making an outstanding commitment to music education during an academic school year since 1998. Pullen’s program was the first in Washington state and was recognized by the Grammy Foundation in 2000 and 2003.

On Wednesday the cats and thunder boomed, as some of the students were working on an assignment, which required them to produce sound effects for a play. Others were busy laying down musical sequences as they were finishing a beat-making assignment.

Giant Mickey Mouse-ear recording headphones covered their ears as their fingers clicked away at keyboards and on the monitor depictions of sound waves faded in and out. The students manipulate the sounds using Protools Software, which Pullen said is found in every studio in the world. The room is home to nine synthesizers and each has 1,000 different sounds, giving students 9,000 sounds at their musical disposal.

Dylan Trevors a 10th-grader enrolled in the course was busy isolating instrumental sounds and tweaking his approximate 30-second beat, which he busted out on the synthesizer the day before.

His monitor was blocked out in five different colors, each one representing a different instrument — drums, base, lead, strings and a small banjo-type picking instrument – and Trevors easily navigated the software that would make some adult’s eyes glaze over.

“I start the drums and put them in where I think it sounds good and take it out where I don’t think it sounds good,” he explained. “I just listen to it, record it, play with it and tweak it.”

Trevors was rocking it and his groovy beat sounded along the lines of G-Unit’s instrumental “Stunt.”

Trevors, who’d like to be a musician, took the class at the urging of his older bother Ryan who graduated in 2008, and he’s glad he did.

“This class is very valuable, it’s broadening my musical spectrum,” he said. “It gives me a better understanding of how everything works and I’ve seen lots of improvements from this class.”

Ryan Trevors, who now makes and sells beats, bought the software so it’s at home for both brothers to play with.

The class builds up to the students making a 15-minute compact disc of original work, and some upcoming assignments are creating a soundtrack to the opening two minutes of a movie and a two-minute dramatic reading complete with music and sound effects, the whole package.

Last year the class operated out of a leaky portable which was torn down over the summer. Pullen is pleased with the move to the choir/drama rehearsal room, as it’s more airy and has private practice rooms.

The only drawback is because of outside and background hums and buzzes students aren’t able to do professional recordings. They’ve sound-proofed one of the private practice rooms and can record in there one track at a time, but not all together.

“We really need a soundproof place, a place just dedicated to that,” Pullen said. “Portables would be ideal.”

Pullen tossed this suggestion out at public meetings the district held last spring to gather community suggestions on how the approximate $1 million surplus of the 2001 voter approved bond should be allocated.

The Capital Facilities Advisory Committee has yet to compile a list of prioritized spending suggestions.

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