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Teens Write, Record Songs in Mobile Studio


A group of teens - all strangers -- comes together to write and record a song and music video… and they must complete it in just one day. This is not an episode from a television reality show. It's an educational program that rolls across the United States on a Magical Mystery Bus Tour.

It is early in the morning when the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus pulls into the Montgomery Blair High School parking lot. The mobile recording and multi-media studio - named for the Beatle superstar who was killed in 1980 - is here to give kids some hands-on recording experience. The bus - supported in part by Yoko Ono as a tribute to her husband - is on the road 10 months a year, making stops wherever teens get together - at high schools, colleges, community centers and music festivals.

Executive Director and founder Brian Rothschild says the program boosts self-esteem by allowing kids to express themselves. "(They) use their own thoughts, their own ideas, their own words."

Hundreds of Montgomery Blair students file through the bus for a closer look at the latest audio and video technology, recording gear, and musical instruments, including electronic drums, guitars and keyboards. But only a few -- all winners of a local essay contest -- get to spend the day on the bus. The students work with staff engineers to transform their collective musical, technical and writing talents into an original song and video they each get to take home.

The students separate into small groups to begin the task. They are told that the song -- like the essay that got them here -- must somehow address the issue of race. By the end of the day, the 9 teens have found common ground with a rock beat and a tune they call 1-NesS.

Can't you see, I'm serious
This stress just makes me delirious
Why can't you see
All I want is unity
It's been so long
Can you tell me what's going on
Where is the love
Is there something wrong
It's time to unite
If we stitch together we can win the fight.

Chorus:
Oneness … Oneness … Oneness

And the pressure is on.
So I try to do my best, but I can't get in where I fit in cuz of the way I'm addressed.
And I wanna make it big, but everybody just criticize.
There's a world that I envision where there's no evil to terrorize.
I'm searching for my soul.
I think I sold it to the devil because I'm outta control, watching my destiny unfold.
That makes me bitter for life
The beast inside is making this
And to keep it from unleashing I let my music keep taming it.

Chorus:
Oneness … Oneness … Oneness

The young people are energized by the collaborative effort. "I thought it was incredible," says one participant. "We got to play with people we never played with before and make all kinds of music and have a lot of fun."

A new friend agrees: "That was what was so deep about today. Even though we may not have known each other, we came together to make music, and that really speaks to music itself that it can bring people from all different backgrounds together." Unable to explain how the group managed to produce the song in such short time one teen says "It was just magic."

Why
Can't we live in peace
Why
Are we still searching for unity
Bitter melodies
But my art imitates my life
Sick of hatred
Injustice, racism
It needs to stop
Why do we all cry at night
Brothers and sisters scream and fight
We turn our backs to save our face
We just wanted love in the first place

Chorus:
Oneness … Oneness … Oneness

The John Lennon Educational Tour bus has been on the road since 1998. The non- profit group plans to launch a new route in England next year. Executive Director Brian Rothschild says it's the first step toward a global experience. "Imagine having kids here in the Washington, D.C. area in the United States working with young people from Nigeria or in Japan or London," he says, "and through all of the miracles of technology and communications to actually, in real time, build an audio-video piece together with children from around the world."

That's the kind of imagining - says Brian Rothschild - that is a living legacy of the life and dreams of John Lennon.

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