“A Day in My Life” is the culmination of a year-long collaboration between Henry H. Houston School in Philadelphia and LiveConnections. This cross-curricular artist residency integrated writing, music and performance and featured writing workshops in all classrooms, poetry intensives, and weekly workshops on songwriting and music composition.
From the energy of the Houston School hallways to concerns about violence in our city; from stories of our families to imaginings of fantastical journeys; from questions for our future selves to images of our current neighborhoods, this album celebrates a day, a year and a creative coming together in all our lives.
Listen to the album
Behind the Scenes
“Turn Up” Music Video
Our year-long residency at Henry H. Houston School combined poetry writing, songwriting, music production and performance in a cross-curricular residency that involved the whole school.
Led by LiveConnections Founding Director David Bradley and teaching artist Andrew Lipke (a Philadelphia-based composer, performer and producer), together with Houston Music Specialist Teacher Ezechial Thurman, the project resulted in an album of 16 original songs and a 44-page book of student poems, as well as a music video for one of the songs.
Students had the opportunity to perform at the Pennsylvania State Capitol (where they were honored on the House floor), Philadelphia City Council and the Barnes Foundation. The project involved more than a dozen guest artists who collaborated with the students.
Songs grew from writing across the grades, all-school assemblies (“It All Starts Now”), a cross-city collaboration with Andrew Jackson Elementary School (“Similarities”), an exchange between an adult rapper and student rapper (“Dear Future Me”) and the artists’ responses to student work (“Write You a Letter”; “Dear Future Me”).
The residency featured:
- Kick-off assemblies with the entire student body, during which the lead-off song on the album was created and recorded.
- Three-week writing intensive in the fall led by poet Jacob Winterstein (a Houston School alum), featuring 2-3 visits to every class in the school, grades K-8. This writing focused on the theme of “A Day in My Life,” and ideas of home, family and neighborhood.
- The formation of “Lyrical Productions,” a 35-student core group of 4th-8th graders, who worked regularly from November to June to create and record the songs for the album. Sessions with this group (60-90 minutes) were led by Andrew Lipke and David Bradley and focused on individual and collaborative lyric writing, concepts of composition, singing and recording.
- A winter poetry intensive led by Jacob, featuring 8 sessions with a 5th grade and 8th grade class. These workshops grew from the desire to help students go deeper with their writing and have more time for writing and revision. The poems students wrote formed the content of the poetry book and several were included on the album as spoken word poems or song lyrics. In addition to this intensive, a writing project with 4th and 6th grades focusing on “letters to one not here” (people no longer in the students’ lives) inspired the song “Write You a Letter.”
- Field trips to the National Constitution Center (which inspired “One Life Taken, One Life Saved”), World Cafe Live (where they created “Dance Like No One’s Watching”) and two professional recording studios, as well as the performance sites noted above.
- A Community Recording Day at World Cafe Live, in which a dozen professionals from business, civic and arts field joined the core group to record a song, and then have a dialogue with students about their jobs and career paths.
- The creation of a music video for the song “Turn Up!,” which involved students working with movement artist Lela Aisha Jones to develop choreography, then working with videographer Galea McGregor to shoot the video around the school. The video included the whole student body, which learned choreography created by the students with the help of Ms. Jones.
- The creation of a short documentary feature about the project, featuring interviews with key program staff and students as well as footage from the creative process throughout the year.
Through this residency, we set out to integrate writing and music-making in a way that impacted the learning of the school. We also aimed to build collaborative skills among students, by having them write and create music in groups, and by forming a core group that spanned 4th-8th grades, so that students who normally would not work together could do so.
Music specialist teacher Ezechial Thurman referred to the project as “musical mentoring,” saying: “We believe that our partnership with LiveConnections has been and will continue to be a catalyst for unlocking a new level of learning at Houston School. As our CD recording project targets creative writing partnered with song-writing and music composition, Houston students are discovering a deeper level of motivation and experiencing a project-based approach to learning. The resulting songs and videos will also have a mentoring effect on the entire school, community and beyond, helping students imagine a bridge into a positive future, where they envision themselves as adults making an impact in Philadelphia. LiveConnections has consistently exceeded our expectations in serving the students of Houston School.”
Lyrical Productions is the 4th-8th grade core group formed for this project. The following students participated in weekly songwriting and composition workshops.
Grade 4: Jamaya Bailey, Sameer Faulks, Ashley Goss, Mekhi Harris, Oscar Toole
Grade 5: Noriah Anderson, Aliesa Barber, Brittney Coleman, Jasmine O’Connor, Saniah Dean, Samaria Dockery, Saran Hani, Jordan Harmon, Arlon Hart, Tatyanna Palmer, Nijah Rogers-Combs
Grade 6: Nazir Boyd, Dwayne Campbell, Nazir Johnson, Kianna Lewis, Mia Wilson
Grade 7: Alexander “Sasha” Campbell-Sydor, Iyanna Daniels, Levan Kennedy, Cory Matthews, Nashaylah Riggs, Cionne White-Callender, Damya Yancey
Grade 8: Jaheim Armstrong, Breina Burnett, Amina Cochran, N’deia Fields, Shea Nedrick, Arshae Randolph, Makaylah Riggs, Layla Turk
David Bradley, lead teaching artist
Andrew Lipke, lead teaching artist, vocals, bass, guitar, keys, lyrics
Ezechial Thurman, music specialist teacher at Henry H. Houston School
Jacob Winterstein, poetry teaching artist
Ross Bellenoit, guitar
BrotherlyLove, vocals (Jeron, King Kahsheef, Ace, Jaylil, Rell Swag)
Valerie Chadwick, vocals
Gordon Goss, beat programming
Atiba Halisi, vocals, lyrics, and beat programming
Orlando Haddad, guitar
Patricia King Haddad, keys
Paul Hammond, guitar
Lela Aisha Jones, choreography
Susanna Loewy, flute
Naeemah Maddox, guitar and vocals
Alex Shaw, percussion
Jim Stager, bass
David Uosikkinen, drums
Thanks to our Supporters
“A Day in My Life” was made possible with support from: the Carter Rowe Charitable Trust; CHG Charitable Trust; Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation; The Corrine R. & Henry Bower Memorial Trust, a PNC Charitable Trust; LiveConnections Kids Count Campaign; Philadelphia Cultural Fund; The Picasso Project of Public Citizens for Children and Youth; Samuel S. Fels Fund; Karyn Scher; The Scholler Foundation; The School District of Philadelphia; Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation; and Wyncote Foundation.
“Catchy & Inspiring”
—Kathy O’Connell, Kids Corner
“It’s a great reflection of the hopes, the dreams, the fears, the challenges of these students … a day in their lives.”
—Loraine Ballard Morrill, iHeartRADIO
“I am proud to be able to connect these recordings with our audience at WXPN, and so pleased with the reaction we have gotten to ‘Dance Like No One is Watching’ and ‘Neighborhood Struggles’ in particular. The students’ songwriting is inspiring.”
—Helen Leicht, WXPN
CBS: Mount Airy Students Honored for CD Release
Groundswell: How LiveConnections Collaborated with Students at Henry H. Houston School to Release an Album
iHeartRadio: A Day in My Life
The Key: A Day In My Life: The collaboration between Henry H. Houston School and LiveConnections
Newsworks: New music by Mt. Airy students tells stories of growing up in their neighborhoods
Philly Mixtape: Music Tea with David Bradley
Philly Voice: Local composer looks to instill lifelong confidence in Mt. Airy middle-schoolers
Pennsylvania House of Representatives: