Growing Up Black
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Growing Up Black

Partners: Hill-Freedman World Academy

Duration: 2021-2022

Description: Sixth student album with Hill-Freedman Records

GROWING UP BLACK is the sixth album from Hill-Freedman Records, led by Music Technology teacher Ezechial Thurman, produced in partnership with World Cafe Live. The album features 34 original songs all written, recorded, and produced by the 10th grade class at Philly public high school Hill-Freedman World Academy.

The songs on GROWING UP BLACK amplify students’ perspectives on the challenges of the past several years, from the pandemic to racialized violence, and how music, in the words of teacher Thurman, “can be a force that helps promote positive change in our world.”

Hill-Freedman Records launched the making of its 6th album by exploring and celebrating the music of artists and producers from diverse genres from Pop to Reggae and Country. These artists and producers, who included Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Bob Marley, and Charlie Pride spanned decades and represented a range of musical genres and cultures. As part of Hill-Freedman World Academy’s Music Technology course (an integral part of the school’s International Baccalaureate curriculum), and under the leadership of teacher Ezechial Thurman and WHYY Media Lab’s Lisa Wilk, 10th graders at Hill-Freedman created video documentaries about these artists, and researched their music to find inspiration for their own songwriting. From this research, and from the students’ own experiences and stories, the theme of “Growing Up Black” emerged as a theme for the album.

In the second half of the school year, Mr. Thurman and the students, were joined by a team of teaching artists from Hill-Freedman’s long-time lead partner, World Cafe Live. WCL teaching artists Kristal Oliver, Bethlehem the Vocussionist and Andrew Lipke collaborated with Mr. Thurman, joined by a group of student producers–veterans of past Hill-Freedman Records albums. Working in the Music Technology Lab and the school’s recording studio, this collective nurtured the creation of the 34 songs that make up this album.


About Hill-Freedman World Academy

Hill-Freedman World Academy is a special admission middle and high school in Northwest Philadelphia. We proudly serve students with a variety of backgrounds, talents, and needs. Through its International Baccalaureate Middle Years and Diploma programs, Hill-Freedman World Academy provides a rigorous academic environment that inspires individuality and fosters lifelong learners who are committed to being knowledgeable, caring, internationally-minded global citizens. Hill-Freedman is a school where “All Means All” and where students are challenged and encouraged to develop their creative talents, even those yet to be discovered.

Artistic Team

Director, Hill-Freedman Records: Ezechial Thurman

Songwriting, Music Composition & Production Teaching Artists : Kristal Oliver; Andrew Lipke; Bethlehem the Vocussionist; Ezechial Thurman

Vocal producing by Kristal Oliver

Album engineered & mixed by Kristal Oliver, Andrew Lipke, Calvin Price, DeCarrio Graham & Ezechial Thurman. Mastered by Andrew Lipke.

Consulting producer: Anthony Majewski, head of school

Album art design by Megan Early and Ibrahim Yansaneh (HFWA Class of 2023)

Thanks to Our Supporters

Direct support for this project has been provided by Former Philadelphia City Council member Cherelle L. Parker (9th District), Spring Point Partners, the Les Paul Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation and the School District of Philadelphia, as well as additional foundations and individuals. World Cafe Live is supported in part by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.