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Hampden Academy students ‘Play It Forward’ for one of their own

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HAMPDEN - Music students at Hampden Academy have been busy preparing for a concert and CD release that will benefit one of their own. 

“Play It Forward IV” is set for Thursday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. at Hampden Academy’s Performing Arts Center. The concert and CD release will benefit Hampden Academy student Sienna Probert, who was diagnosed with cancer last June. 

“Sienna is one of our music students,” said Patrick Michaud, director of bands and instructor of Music Industry and Music Theory for RSU #22. “She’s a singer and a flute player and her family is very dedicated to her. Sienna’s father temporarily left his job to care for his daughter and all proceeds from the sale of tickets to the concert and the CD will help the family offset some of their medical expenses.” 

Michaud has directed all of the previous “Play It Forward” concert and CD events, an idea that he says was inspired by his brother-in law, Bob James, a musician and teacher in upstate New York who uses music industry training as a way to teach leadership skills and job training to music students.

Through a close association with the rock band Goo Goo Dolls, James has helmed a series of successful concerts and benefit CDs featuring his students, who learn about all aspects of the music industry through hands-on practical training. Michaud adapted that idea for his Hampden Academy students.

“This class was a great fit for our new school,” Michaud told me. “We teach students all about sound and recording. Students learn to operate the sound system in the Performing Arts Center and they actually get paid to do it.”

A big part of “Play It Forward” is the CD, featuring all-original music, written and recorded by the students. 

“In the fall, we audition students who are interested in being part of the CD,” Michaud explained. “They have to bring an original piece of music. Not only do they benefit from developing their own music, but we also avoid any potential copyright issues.”

The music for the CD was recorded at Main Street Music Studios, located at 379 South Main Street in Brewer – a state-of-the-art studio that provides engineering, production and creative services to musicians.

“The studio is owned by Andrew Clifford and it’s been a huge part of this class,” Michaud said. “The fact that we can work so closely with them has a lot to do with this project being a success.”

Michaud says that his students have sessions in the studio with Clifford, who teaches them about the art of sound recording.

“Students work in sound labs using Pro Tools, the industry standard for recording audio,” said Michaud. “They learn about all aspects of recording sounds in different kinds of rooms, using different types of microphones. The class is a wonderful learning experience for the students.”

The CD features eleven original tracks ranging from rock and jazz to pop and hip-hop.

“There’s a track on the CD that a student developed with a MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) controller,” said Michaud. “It sounds so good, it could be on the radio tomorrow. All of the pieces of music are of very high quality. It’s very impressive to see what they’ve come up with.”

During the “Play It Forward IV” concert, the students will perform music from the CD, which will be available for $8. Tickets for the concert itself will sell for $5. 

“Our goal is to fill up 910 seats,” Michaud said of the seating capacity of Hampden Academy’s Performing Arts Center. “If we can do that and sell-out the first pressing of the disc, we’ll have a nice check to give to Sienna’s family.” 

(“Play It Forward IV” takes place on Jan. 12 at Hampden Academy’s Performing Arts Center – located at 89 Western Ave. in Hampden – at 7 p.m.)

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