ACE and KALW’s Continuing Education Partnership Introduces Radio to Burton High School Juniors
KALW Public Radio is an ACE Continuing Education Partner. The radio station is based inside Philip & Sala Burton High School in San Francisco. KALW News Senior Editor Casey Miner and her colleagues do periodic workshops with students on everything from interviewing, to thinking in sound, to writing for radio. Recently, two 11th grade classes visited the station to see how radio gets made — and sit down at the mic. Here’s Casey’s writeup of how it went.
So, we’re not a big place — we have a lot of volunteers who come into our newsroom, but there are rarely more than, say, 15 people around at a time. So it was a bit of an event for 30 students to come through — twice!
We split each class into two groups. The first came with me into the studio to check out the recording equipment, and get on the mic; the second got a station tour from Executive Editor Ben Trefny and listened to some of our most fun audio pieces with producers Julie Caine, Audrey Dilling, and Leila Day. Halfway through the class period, they switched.
We were asking the students to contribute to one of our most fun projects, My Mix Tape. It’s a short on-air segment where people talk about music that’s important to them, and we mix their thoughts together with a clip from the song. We ask for mixtapes everyone we interview, from men on the street to mayoral candidates. I’d gone into the students’ classes earlier in the week and asked them to think about songs that matter to them, and consider what they might want to share.
When they got into the studio, everyone was really excited to see what we did — how the mixing board worked, what I was doing in ProTools, how we set up the microphones. The setup can be intimidating: whoever’s recording sits alone in the booth, wearing headphones, talking to the sound engineer on the mic and looking through the window connecting the two rooms. So in this case, whoever was recording was looking at me… and at 14 of their classmates.
It took a little prodding, but a few brave souls volunteered to go into the studio, sit behind the microphone, and start talking about their music. Their classmates watched and cheered them on. After they recorded, each student came back into the main room to report on his or her experience. Some common threads quickly emerged: “I feel famous!” “It’s weird to hear myself through headphones.” Each student then showed the next how to get set up: how close to the mic to sit, where to position themselves, how to adjust the headphone volume.
The last thing I did was show them how we’d see the project through — one of the students emailed me his song off his phone, I brought it into ProTools, and I rough-mixed his mix tape, so he could hear what it might sound like on-air.
Next steps: We’ll do a final mix of all the recordings, and, with the students’ permission, get them into our lineup for air. A few of the students already know what that’s like: they got to pop into morning announcer Joe Burke’s broadcast studio, and say good morning to the Bay Area on the live mic!