Donations worth thousands allow students to record music for free

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Schools opened a recording studio at David H. Hickman High School for students to use for free.

The goal of Dark Room Records is to build interest in music and the expressive arts. The mentors hope this will help students meet like-minded people, form bands, and make music they could have permanently and look back on in the future.

"It's gonna do so much for the city and so much to help promote music across Columbia," said Dark Room Records Coordinator and Gentry Middle School Teacher David Aulgur.

"There's always been like a passing of the torch from one generation of musicians to the other, trying to make it easier trying to make it more accessible to all kinds of different people no matter what music it is," Aulgur said. "We're really excited to reach out to kids that would never have a chance like this, students who ultimately may find it hard to connect with school, and we're hoping we can be that connection."

Columbia Public Schools Director of Practical Arts Craig Adams first approached Aulgur in August 2014 about opening a recording studio. In an interest survey through Missouri Connections, Adams learned a large number of students consider themselves artists and musicians, but there is not always a place where these students can utilize their talents.

"This will give kids an opportunity to branch out start their own band," Adams said. "There are kids that drop out of school, and this might be a hook to get them back."

Aulgur said Dark Room Records started out because there has always been a want and a need for a program like this one. Throughout the years equipment had been acquired from different types of ventures.

Aulgur said they wanted to find a place that was centrally located so they could cater to all schools. Hickman is an ideal location because it is near downtown and walking distance from several different recording studios.

According to Battle High School Teacher and Dark Room Records Mentor Jordan Smith some local recording studios can charge from $40 an hour to $2000 a week.

Aulgur said they received about $5000 worth of equipment donated to the studio.

"I was really lucky in the fact that my dad played music, so instruments were always around there," Battle High School Senior Isaac Baker said. "But as far as kids that don't have it I think there's a lot of artistic value that gets lost just because of how expensive it is. So the one time investment for it is gonna pay off tenfold with potential for quality to come out of the program."

"To pursue a musical creative career, you know, the money adds up quickly and so a lot of students that I've met are ones that fall kind of in your lower economic base because they don't have the resources to go and record music to go, you know, purchase nice amps and nice guitars and play a full drum set," Aulgur said.

The first band that will record at Dark Room Records is an all girl band called Graveyard Youth.

Graveyard Youth's bassist Mackenzie Thomas said she has a lot of friends who want to put together a band but they do not have the resources. She said before Dark Room Records opened, her band would have garage sales to save up enough money to record at an actual studio, but now they can put that money toward merchandise like album sleeves.

Thomas hopes to get more of her friends involved at Dark Room Records.

Smith said he knows students that have instruments they buy at pawn shops that are falling apart.

"I taught a kid two years ago drum lessons, and he didn't have a drum set, but he loved drums, and he was really good so we played every Friday at the end of the school day, and that was the only chance he got to play the instrument," Smith said.

There has been a positive reaction from parents, and some feel that they wish they had something similar when they were younger.

"They were all like blown away the fact that we had a free studio with professional recording equipment," Smith said.

Smith said since a lot of students want to make their own music, this opportunity will train students to understand what it is like to be a sound engineer and a producer in an actual studio. It can also just be a fun extracurricular opportunity.

"This is allowing them to have a voice and put their music out there and share it with everyone, so its great," Thomas said.

This is open to any registered Columbia Public Schools student and anyone dedicated to helping out in the studio.

There will be a one-week boot camp from July 6-9 for students to learn how everything in the studio works. For more updates check out their web page.