Hill-Freedman World Academy Releases Original Album WAKE UP EVERYBODY
On Thursday, May 30, Hill-Freedman World Academy (HFWA), a public high school in the School District of Philadelphia, will release the original album WAKE UP EVERYBODY, the third offering from the school's Hill-Freedman Records label. The label, and the album, are part of Hill-Freedman's IB Design/Music Technology curriculum. The album will be released at a ceremony at 1pm on Thursday, May 30th in the school auditorium.
WAKE UP EVERYBODY was created as part of the school's ongoing partnership with Philadelphia non-profit LiveConnections, which specializes in music education, arts accessibility and collaborative concerts. The collection of original student songs (and a cover of the 1970's classic title song) is the culmination of a year-long project led by HFWA Music Technology teacher Ezechial Thurman and a team of LiveConnections teaching artists: noted songwriter/producer Andrew Lipke; Grammy nominee Kristal Oliver; past Kimmel Center jazz resident Luke Carlos O'Reilly and LiveConnections Founding Director David Bradley.
The album also features special guest appearances by William R. Hite Jr., Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, as well as notable Philadelphia musicians Laurin Talese (winner of the 2018 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition), rapper Chill Moody and keyboardist Eric Wortham II, a Hill-Freedman alumnus who has toured with Adele and Jill Scott.
The release event will feature live performances of several student-written songs, showcasing student performers along with the LiveConnections artists who have collaborated with them, including Lipke, Oliver and O'Reilly, who worked with the students all year.
WAKE UP EVERYBODY takes its inspiration from the mission, songs and style of Philadelphia International Records, the influential label founded in 1971 by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff which produced the renowned "Sound of Philadelphia." Over the course of the school year, under the direction of Thurman, together with the LiveConnections artists, all of HFWA's 10th graders and a cohort of 11th and 12th graders dug into the Philadelphia International catalogue, listening to the music of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, the O'Jays, MFSB and more. Students drew inspiration from the label's focus on "music with a message," while also drawing on contemporary R & B, pop and hip-hop.
"The mission of Hill-Freedman Records is to create music that brings people together to contribute to positive change in the world," said Thurman, who came to the school in 2016 to launch the Music Technology program and record label. "The music and legacy of Philadelphia International Records are great models for our student artists. The students were really fueled by the message and power of The Sound of Philadelphia."
With guidance from Thurman, Lipke, O'Reilly and Grammy-nominated songwriter Oliver, the students wrote lyrics, individually and in whole class collaborations. Many tracks feature original student musical composition and production, a hallmark of the Music Technology program led by Thurman. Other tracks feature LiveConnections artists and guests, as well as HFWA 10th grader Christian Harrison on drums.
The album features more than a dozen original tracks, plus a cover of "Wake Up Everybody," originally recorded by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes and covered by John Legend and The Roots in 2010. The new version features dozens of Hill-Freedman students, along with guest vocals by Superintendent Hite, who sings the line "Wake up all the teachers/time to teach a new way," Chill Moody, Laurin Talese and the LiveConnections artists. Hill-Freedman alum Eric Wortham II added keys to the track.
The original songs follow the title's exhortation to "wake up" to what the world, and the students, are facing today. The album moves from the personal to the global, with students singing about love and family, racism and violence, graduation and their futures and the need to come together in a divided world. "All Over the World," a joyful anthem of unity by 10th grader Camya Bradley, proclaims, "Music doesn't discriminate/The problem with the world is all this hate/I know we don't have the same race but our blood is the same/All over the world." Soulful ballads like "So Crazy" by 11th grader Josh Blanton and "Déjà Vu" by 10th graders Ashanti Mack, Aniya Gentles and Mylikai Jackson-Smith echo the smooth love songs of Philadelphia International.
"Forbidden Drive," written by 11th graders Rajah Goldstein and Janelle Edwards, with HFWA head of school/principal Anthony F. Majewski, uses the iconic Wissahickon trail in Northwest Philadelphia to tell a story of love and hope.
"The Music Technology program and Hill-Freedman Records show the creative power and promise of our students," Majewski. "The music on this album represents students taking risks, committing to excellence and speaking their minds in passionate ways."
10th grader Jaelynn Pearson said the songwriting and recording process gave her and her classmates a chance to "communicate to our world in a creative way. Writing is a way to be heard when you feel like no one is listening," Pearson commented. "We have a story that is important to listen to and we can shine light where you can't see."
WAKE UP EVERYBODY is the third album from Hill-Freedman Records, each made in partnership with LiveConnections. Last year's release, WHAT'S GOING ON, was followed by a series of performances by students and LiveConnections artists that included the final School Reform Commission meeting, a national conference of educators at Drexel University's ExCITe Center and the annual convocation of School District of Philadelphia principals, hosted by Superintendent Hite.
"This album is full of heart. It's full of bravery. It's full of music that inspires," Thurman said of the new release. "The partnership between LiveConnections and our school allows our students a chance to create with the support of first-class artists who value their talent and voices. It's cutting edge collaboration that's all about a belief in student creativity."
LiveConnections Founding Director David Bradley noted that this project, and the ongoing partnership with HFWA is at the heart of what LiveConnections wants to do. "We believe music is a powerful way to celebrate who we are and to speak up about our world," Bradley said. "That's what this album does. That's what this partnership does. These students have big ideas and inspiring ways of expressing them."
Direct support for this project has been provided by Philadelphia City Council member Cherelle L. Parker (9th District), and The NBCUniversal Foundation, NBC10, Telemundo62 and the School District of Philadelphia, as well as additional foundations and individuals. LiveConnections 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. Additional support for LiveConnections is provided in part by the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.