POCATELLO — Band, choir and orchestra students at Pocatello High School had the opportunity on Monday to explore the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, a mobile recording studio dedicated to the memory of the former Beatle.
The bus also visited Pocatello High School last year, and six students were able to write their own song, then perform it and produce a finished music video. Their song, titled “We Are The Light” can be found on the YouTube page for the bus at https://tinyurl.com/y8g2drbm. The students were chosen based on teacher recommendations.
This year, however, Principal Lisa Delonas said she requested the bus do their “tents and tours” program, rather than the music video, so more students could have the opportunity to interact with the bus.
Every student in the band, orchestra and choir had the opportunity to tour the bus and learn about its history and technology and play with a variety of instruments provided by Yamaha, one of the bus’ many sponsors.
The nonprofit bus is funded by sponsors and its services are entirely free to schools.
“The kids last year had a fabulous time, but there’s something to be said for having a broader group of kids have at least some sort of exposure,” Delonas said. “It’s not the in-depth interaction that kids last year had, but we had a lot of kids that wanted to participate last year, and it’s just hard to exclude somebody.”
Tanner Wilson, a senior who participated in the music video project last year, said he believes the experiences provided by the bus were hugely helpful and educational, especially considering his desire to become a composer.
“It’s a really good opportunity for students who do want to go into music,” Wilson said. “It gives them a look inside. It was good to know what they did and how to do it. I also got an idea instrument-wise what I liked a little bit more, and what it might be like to record on different instruments.”
The bus travels the country 10 months out of the year, visiting elementary, middle and high schools as well as the occasional college or music festival.
“It’s really a fully digital multimedia immersion,” said Steven Meloney, one of the bus’s on-board engineers. “And of course in addition to creating our digital projects, we also try to spread John Lennon’s message of peace and educate the youth about John Lennon and his life.”
One of the ways they do that is by creating a human peace sign with every student in the school, something Pocatello High School students participated in last year.
“I think it’s all pretty cool,” said sophomore Sydney Fransen. “It’s a really good idea to show kids what instruments can come together and so many more things.”
Students explored the bus, which features three separate rooms — a video production suite, an audio recording studio and an isolation booth to record vocals and isolated instrument sounds. Meloney and the two other on-board engineers explained to the kids how everything in the bus worked, then took them out to the instrument tent to let them play with the piano, drumset, guitars and microphone.
“The students had a pretty good jam session going,” said Dave Beckstead, the band teacher. “Where the kids can work and play off of each other is very inspirational, and I wish we could raise those opportunities more.”
Delonas said she will continue bringing the bus to Pocatello for as long as they are willing to come.
“Music is one of those things that really brings people together and breaks down barriers,” Delonas said. “It’s just an important thing to do.”