George Lucas Educational Foundation

Making the Dreams of Young Musical Artists a Reality

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus is a high-tech recording studio on wheels that brings music education to schools across the country. Read the article.
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Making the Dreams of Young Musical Artists a Reality (Transcript)

Boy: All right.

Marco: Guys, let me have one more picture, 'cause I just realized, when you guys win the Grammy, you guys need a good picture to have up on the top.

Narrator: These nine students from diverse backgrounds came together for the first time to participate in a creative experiment at the NAMM music convention in Anaheim.

Marco: We have students from four different schools. We have a combination of an opera singer to hip hop producers. We have coupla brass players. We have a guitar player. We have a couple of rappers. So we'll see in this big stew what actually comes up.

Narrator: They would have just six hours to create and record an original tune and produce a music video about it, aboard a high tech rolling recording studio, the John Lennon educational tour bus.

Steve: And whenever we actually finish recording the song, we normally come up here. They all sit here, have the engineer sitting here, and we will create the music video, using these computers here in the front studio.

Narrator: The bus has been on the road since 1998, stopping at schools and events around the country, offering small groups of students a glimpse of the world of professional recording and video making, and an opportunity to collaborate with top flight recording artists and skilled engineers.

Herminio: Imagine peace. Paz. Imagine peace.

Narrator: All for free.

Boy: That's what we needed.

Brian: Our whole reason for being is to supplement, support, and inspire music and video programs, and teachers and communities and leaders.

Boy: You guys, can everybody hear themselves while they're playing?

Brian: The more opportunities we can expose young people to, the more chances they have to imagine themselves as successful, professional, happy, creative people.

Rob: I mean, whatever sound you want, we can give you.

Narrator: Engineers Rob Healey, Herminio Quiros and Steve Miller live on the bus for ten months out of the year. At each stop, they serve as mentors, showing students how to run the high tech gear.

Rob: You're going for a string sound there, man?

Narrator: And helping to jumpstart the creative process.

Rob: If we get, you know, a little tiny riffle, decide if that's chorus or not, and then we can even move on from there.

So have you guys been working on any riffs or anything lately?

Boy: We had this one. I don't know about this one, but it's like.

Irving: At first it was just hard, you know, trying to get the different genres and stuff, trying to collaborate, and then everyone had different ideas, from their background or whatever they played. So we just-- we just--

Ryan: Everybody brought something to the table.

Irving: Yeah, to the tables.

Marco: To me, the fundamental component of creativity is one's ability problem solve. And I think that in any creative project that you go into, whether it's movie, whether it's music, whether it's photography, design, math, science, social studies, language arts, I think at the basic core is your ability to problem solve, and I think that this gives kids the confidence to take risks.

Boy: I like writing about what's true. I don't like writing about what's fake.

Ryan: The tools that you learn through music, like you can apply to any aspect in life. I mean, 'cause you have to have discipline, like 'cause sometimes you know, like dang, I can't go out party this weekend. I gotta record, I gotta practice, you know what I mean? So you get discipline.

Boy: Oh, do you wanna do like the last measure--

Mike: One of the great untold lessons of music is that when a kid learns music, the kid learns how to learn, and that's a lesson then can be applied to the study of mathematics or language or history or anything else, because learning how to learn is the secret to successful education.

Rob: You guys ready to do this? All right. Five, six, seven, eight.

Fernando: Building their character, showing people how to analyze, how to proscribe solutions to difficult problems. I think they're lifelong lessons that carry on to everything that you do in life.

Rob: All right, guys, let's start it again here.

Fernando: So even though I'm teaching music, I'm trying to teach more than that. You know, I think it's more important than the notes on the page or the performances that come outta kids. If you just hear the kid playing a song, then you miss the whole picture.

Narrator: With the rhythm and solo tracks laid down, it's time to record the vocals.

Boy: -- that you will live to tell. I've been through a lot growing up through these years, but the knowledge that I gained, I said, we're my peers, teenagers and we won't stop.

Narrator: At most bus stops, renowned recording artists like Al Jarreau swing by to add their talent to the mix. Today's guest artist is Casey Brown.

Casey: Nice voice. So are you wanting to do that, and you want me to harmonize with you, or do you want me to do that?

Boy: Whatever. Whatever works.

Casey: I think you should do that, and then I'll harmonize with you.

Boy: Let's do that. That'd be sweet.

Narrator: After the audio tracks are recorded, the musicians switch hats and become video producers and actors, lip syncing a stage performance and scouring the surrounding area for additional footage to integrate into the final piece.

Rob: The second half of the day is always spent shooting video and editing the video. So Miguel is editing. He had a bunch of stuff already laid out and had been using the rough audio mix, while Herm is completing the final mix in the back studio.

Miguel: I'm syncing the footage with the song, so I'm trying to put it all together so that-- so it goes flawless, so you won't be able to notice what's going, or if it's right or wrong, which is why I just wanna capture like the whole thing. Oh, that was nice.

Marco: Giving the students an opportunity to learn both the audio part of storytelling or the audio part of communicating, as well as the visual part of communicating is extremely important. So if the kid wants to tell a sad story, then they know that they can pull an A minor chord and visually, there's colors that you would choose and color palette to communication.

Miguel: We're trying to like final style. We were going for more like the kinda gritty black and white.

Marco: Regardless of whatever field these kids choose to go to, these are skills that they'll be able to bring to their jobs and say, "Hey, this is what I can do." I can communicate in English, Spanish and multimedia.

Herminio: Cool, right?

Boy: That's awesome.

Boy: Sounded good.

Narrator: The bus only accommodates a small group of students at each stop, but it's an exemplary learning experience that can be replicated at any school, with a relatively small investment in hardware. And while these students may not strike it rich in the recording industry, their experience this day and their connection to music is priceless.

Marco: Mr. Fingers, here we go. Mr. Bernal, right here.

Mike: There are a lotta kids for whom music is their ticket to stay in school. It's what'll motivate 'em. It'll what'll keep them interested. And when public policy officials, whether they're governors or legislators start thinking about cutting arts programs and music programs, they need to think again.

Marco: Here it is, ladies and gentlemen, the video. See "Paz."

Boy: Where the new is coming out, ready to explode, and I won't stop, until it's shown a collaboration worldwide.

Man: Most of my students do not go on to become movie producers or musicians. They go on to their other professions, but I know that having had this experience, the kids learn how to work with others, how to convince others of the concept that they have, how to listen and bring in ideas. And I think those are very valuable lessons.

Adrian: Me personally, I feel that this bus itself gives a lotta hope for dreams that a lotta youth have themselves in music and photography and film productions, because it shows that, you know, there's a chance out there, and it's about just going for what you love to do.

Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Associate Producer:

  • Amy Erin Borovoy


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • J.B. Letchinger
  • Eric Snyder
  • Ken Ellis
  • Amy Erin Borovoy


  • Naheed Attari

Additional Footage Courtesy of

  • John Lennon Educational Tour Bus

Comments (3) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Helen Lau Running's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

from Helen ... reach for the STARS Linh!!

Helen Lau Running's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

from Helen for Linh ... reach for the stars!

M. A. Hauck, M.Ed's picture
M. A. Hauck, M.Ed
Life Skills Support Teacher

Finally, an investment in teaching kids quality musical styles that John Lennon would have been proud to compose and perform on REAL instruments that require ability and PRACTICE to be effective. Thankfully this program isn't another ploy to try and teach subliterate forms that are anti-musical and require a scant amount of talent or practice to write and perform.

It's shame that not enough music teachers attempt to teach kids that there was really good black music that predates the rap era ... everything from blues to jazz to soul to funk. The bigger shame is that these kids don't know of anything else BUT rap. How surprised they would be to learn that you can still tell a story about your life's travails with music without having to resort to disgustingly crude and misogynist language.

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