About an hour from Nashville’s famous Music Row, a new studio that’s tucked inside a high school is giving students the chance to write, record, produce and mix their own music. Educators at Mount Pleasant High School hope it gives rural students experience with different career pathways in music.
Students there worked together to transform old cement practice rooms. They turned one cement practice room into a soundproof recording booth, and flipped another into a control room.
Senior Jackson Gary says it’s a big deal for Mount Pleasant students to have access to a studio like this one.
“School is a more rigid environment,” he says, “and to be able to come out here and have a bit of fun and express ourselves is a great opportunity. It helps us personally practice and expand our music abilities.”
On the other side of the studio glass, Eli Harvey sits at a computer, honing his skills as a sound engineer. He’s only 15, but he is already learning how to mix songs using professional audio software.
“I think it’s important because it gives you a future in the industry,” he says, “and you get to learn about it.”
The studio was built with leftover funds from a grant. Principal Dr. Ryan Jackson says it is just the latest in a string of investments into Mount Pleasant schools — they have a welding program, a construction class, robotics, and more.
“This community deserves these kinds of opportunities,” he says. “They deserve to have capacity built in them to have these kind of viable careers. It’s not necessarily four-year university or bust. It can be four, it can be two, vocational or straight into the work force.
“Or you learn how to record here, and you produce your demo here and you’re getting signed straight out of high school.”
Mount Pleasant was recently designated as Tennessee’s only pre-K through 12 STEM campus. The principal says the arts and creativity are baked into their mission.
“We’re just getting kids to identify what their innate strengths are, and then we’re surrounding those strengths with the kind of skills that they can leverage into any kind of post-secondary success,” he says.
For the studio’s opening day celebration, former Mount Pleasant student John Wilkes gave the student engineers a test run with his band, Holy Smoke.
“If they’d had this studio here, we’d be putting out our tenth album, not our first one,” he says.
He hopes the studio gives students in his rural hometown a jumpstart on their music careers.