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Posted by on Aug 12, 2015 in ACE Learning Center, ACE Partners, Continuing Education | 1 comment

KALW and Sunset Youth Services Mix It Up So Students Can Create On-Air Stories

By Guest Blogger Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Radio

I had the pleasure, last week, of hosting students from Sunset Youth Services (SYS) at KALW. It’s a program that helps young people find long-term stability and growth. Many of the teenagers who go there after school don’t have a lot of great options, and SYS provides a lot of support services and opportunities to help them find meaningful purposes. One of those endeavors is called UpStar Records, and it’s an on-location recording studio where they learn ProTools audio editing software to create and mix their own music.

I used to volunteer as a tutor at SYS about a decade ago, before my work at KALW took over my time – it’s in my neighborhood out in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset district. And one of the SYS staffers, Wendy Baker, used to volunteer with KALW, after we received a grant to record community stories out of Bay Area libraries.

During the summer, Wendy and I were talking about how both SYS and KALW use ProTools to work with sound, and how it would be really great to find ways to collaborate. And that’s just what we did.

On Tuesday, Wendy, two other staffers, and five teens came by our station. I introduced them to our staff and volunteers, showed them our recording studios and the complex mixes our engineers were working on, and then sat down to talk shop. I played them the following pieces:

Gerard Koskovich’s Mixtape: The Communards  “Don’t Leave Me This Way” – This is the story behind a disco anthem that became a plea for support during the dark days of the AIDS epidemic.

Sebastian Walker’s Mixtape: Bill Withers‘ “Lean On Me” – This song became the soundtrack to an investigative reporter’s painful exploration of post-earthquake Haiti.

Diane Daniels’ StoryCorps – One of my favorite pieces we’ve ever aired, this is the story of the emotions a female engineer felt in a room full of male colleagues when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

Noelia Gonzalez, a young engineer at Sunset Youth Services, shows off a magnet from one of her new favorite radio stations.

Noelia Gonzalez, a young engineer at Sunset Youth Services, shows off a magnet from one of her new favorite radio stations.

The students were a fantastic and engaged audience, and it really filled me with joy to be able to share some of my passion for great audio with them. But what’s going to be even more enjoyable is hearing them make that kind of work themselves.

When the folks from SYS left, I gave them 10 raw recordings of mixtapes from various people we’ve interviewed over the past several months. They’ll work on editing those and mixing them with music over the next few weeks, and then I’ll drop in for a couple hours to check out their progress and give them some guidance. I’ll visit regularly, every three weeks or so, and over time, I expect them to conduct their own interviews, edit and mix them, and get them ready for our air. I also anticipate they’ll work on some StoryCorps pieces, and become regular contributors to Crosscurrents – all the while improving their mixing skills.

It’s an exciting arrangement for all of us. We’ll keep you posted on how it’s going!

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