The chorus room at Century High School was transformed into an impromptu recording studio Wednesday morning, as students performed backup melodies for Nashville, Tenn., singer-songwriter Jenn Bostic before writing a song of their own.
Bostic was on hand for a morning of songwriting lessons, question-and-answer sessions, and a transformation of the group into her backup singers for the concert later that evening.
Bostic, who lives in Nashville, has performed at the Grand Ole Opry and won five Independent County Music Association Awards, including Best Songwriter, Best Female Vocalist and Overall Winner. She has opened for The Band Perry and Randy Travis and independently released two albums. In 2012, her song "Jealous of the Angels" reached No. 1 on the United Kingdom music charts.
The workshops covered a number of topics. To give the students an example of work done in production, she performed an acoustic rendition of one of her songs, before switching to the fully produced song.
Bostic discussed the layering of instrumentation and her switch from using full live bands to laying down pre-produced tracks. After that, she worked with students to create backing tracks and discussed her upcoming tour of the U.K.
Bostic said she worked with Century chorus teacher Melissa Adelman to design the workshop.
"We've had a half-hour lesson plan, and then felt out where each group wanted to go," Bostic said. "We listened to whether their interest was in songwriting or more into just listening to music or hearing about the industry. We wanted to find out what these kids were hungry for. I get to give them the nuggets of info they want."
Bostic first met Adelman at the Showchoir Camps of America, where she was acting as a counselor for the teachers. She and Adelman discussed the songwriting workshops Bostic had been doing in the Midwest. Weeks later, she was invited to come to Century for two days of workshops and a concert.
"It's fun to see these kids get excited about writing, and it's crazy because you never know which of the kids is going to be really into songwriting," Bostic said. "A lot of times, the spotlight is on the great singers, but in songwriting, the really great songwriters aren't that great at singing, they just love to write."
During the Wednesday class, the students worked together with Adelman and Bostic to write a song to be performed at the concert that night. They settled on the concept of writing about the importance of music. Students pitched ideas that Adelman and Bostic then synthesized into a coherent whole.
Senior Noah Wolcott said he has recently decided to follow his dream of pursuing a musical career. Wolcott asked Bostic for advice on how best to get his name and work out to the public.
"As our song says, music has always been that thing, that divine entity," Wolcott said. "Music offers something that nothing else can give you, so that's why I love it."
Bostic said she loves teaching these seminars for younger writers, because as a student, she didn't know songwriting was a possible career.
"I lost my dad when I was 10, and songwriting was the therapy that got me through it," she said. "I just started to dabble around, and for me I don't know what I would have done or where I would be now if it wasn't for that.
"For these kids, high school is tough. If you can get these feelings down, it can help with the self-discovery process. I think there's something about that fire in a high schooler's eyes and heart. They're ready for what the world is throwing at them."