Five students at the Nebo Advanced Learning Center in Salem spent a day writing and recording an original song and music video recently aboard the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus.

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus is a nonprofit outreach program created in 1998 by co-founders Yoko Ono Lennon, the late John Lennon’s wife, and Brian Rothschild with a mission to give students increased access to music, audio, video and broadcast technologies.

“This is precisely the kind of project that John Lennon would have loved,” Yoko Ono Lennon wrote in an informational pamphlet about the program. “I support this project 100 percent for that very reason.”

The three-room bus has visited schools across the nation and functions as a studio on wheels, equipped with professional audio and video production equipment, including an array of computers, TV screens, microphones, cameras and musical instruments.

The bus can be requested online and is adaptable for a variety of purposes, including student tours, recording sessions and music events. The vehicle has even played host to recording sessions with popular artists like Andy Grammer.

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Advanced Learning Center Principal Ben Ford said it is prestigious for a school to receive a visit from the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, but this is not the program’s first stop in Nebo School District. He said the bus made a similar stop at Maple Mountain High School last year.

“It’s a great opportunity, and we’re just grateful to the Lennon Foundation for coming in and providing it,” Ford said. “This is really a great thing to have come to our district and be able to take advantage of.”

The school chose five interested students from its audio and digital media classes to participate in this year’s tour, which Ford said correlates directly with the school’s mission to give its students professional experience.

“I think it fits the bill perfectly for that,” Ford said. “Our kids are going to be able to go out and see how things like this are really done in a real-life type of experience.”

Educational approach

In addition to exposing students to new technologies, the tours teach students about the opportunities available to them in the music world in professions like songwriting and audio engineering, onboard engineer Luke Huisman said.

“These students may not have had the opportunity to pick up a guitar and press the record button on the computer and hear their own voice or hear their own guitar being played back or anything like that,” Huisman said. “We can still work with these students to make a song, any digital project, and make their minds blow every single time.”

Onboard engineer Joshua Greene said the program aims to spread peace, music and creativity in the name of famed musician and Beatles member John Lennon, who died in 1980.

“We’re just trying to keep the spirit alive, keep the creativity alive and bring the opportunities to the students,” Greene said.

During the bus’ tour stops, students and educators learn about John Lennon’s legacy and are often invited to have a photo taken with the group in peace sign formation as part of the visit, according to Huisman.

“It’s anything from being inspired from his music as well as just, it’s really awesome to always think about peace and always striving for peace because there’s not a lot of peace in this world right now,” Huisman said.

Student experience

The most rewarding part of the tours is seeing students come out of their shells and light up as they engage in the creative process, according to Greene.

“They just get so excited about the fact that they can create that fast and that they have a product that they can hear and … see and spread around,” Greene said.

Huisman said it’s interesting to see a group of students who don’t know each other enter the bus and “make something creative in a very short amount of time.”

“Most of the time, the students who don’t know each other are best friends by the end of the day, and they’ve created something so cool and so beautiful by the end of the day that it’s inspiring,” Huisman said.

Senior Gracen Breeze said being able to participate in the student session in Salem was a good experience for her as a soon-to-be commercial music student at Utah Valley University.

“This has been awesome,” Breeze said. “I’m more of a solo artist, but for a group effort, I think it’s going to help me work with different people and to see where everyone comes from on a song. … Brainstorming with everyone and seeing all the different ideas we have from the same set of chords has been really cool.”

Sophomore Matthew Moody said he also enjoyed the unique group approach to songwriting.

“It was just really fun to be writing a song and all working together and coming up with what works using all of our different talents,” Moody said.

Alexander Davies, a sophomore who sees his future in audio engineering, said the student session exposed him to some new ways of going about music composition.

“I’d like to write my own songs, and so this helps get me more of that experience,” Davies said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Sophomore Corrine Christensen said she might appreciate music more in the future as a result of her John Lennon Educational Tour Bus experience.

“I learned that even a simple song takes a lot of time to make,” Christensen said.

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