Community of Peace class wins award for songwriting

Song describes East Side kids’ everyday experiences

 

Living On The East Side

By Charlie Maguire and Music Appreciation class
Community of Peace Academy, 2011-2012,

I wake up, the police drive by
Another normal day, and I wonder why
Living on the East Side, east of “35”
Living on the East Side, living my life

On the way to school, I see a homeless guy
Hustling for change, people pass him by
Living on the East Side, east of “35”
Living on the East Side, living my life

At someone’s house, hanging out
“BFF” is what it’s all about
Living on the East Side, east of “35”
Living on the East Side, living my life

When the sun goes down, and the stars come out
I look out the window and sing my heart out loud
Living on the East Side, east of “35”
Living on the East Side, living my life

Copyright Mello-Jamin Music
 

Out of roughly 10,000 pieces of art made by students statewide, a song called “Living on the East Side,” written by a class of high-schoolers at Community of Peace Academy, rose to the top.

The song was chosen as one of 11 recipients of the Lillian Wright Award for Creative Writing, an award given through the St. Paul-based arts education organization COMPAS. The award was announced during a celebration in December, 2013.

The folkloric-style song was written by juniors and seniors in instructor Lee Her’s music class at the school in April 2012, and depicts basic sights the students saw around their school and homes on the East Side.

The song was composed with the help of Charlie McGuire, a professional musician hired by COMPAS.

Approaching composing the song was strikingly simple -- McGuire just told the kids “give me a slice of your day.”

Students spoke up, and before too long, they had their verses figured out.

“It was kind of a matter-of-fact, non-political acceptance of what they saw everyday,” he says. “But they don’t know how interesting that is.”

Students came up with lines such as “At someone’s house, hanging out ‘BFF’ is what it’s all about,” and “On the way to school, I see a homeless guy, hustling for change, people pass him by,” cemented with a chorus that goes “Living on the East Side, living my life.”

McGuire recalls an air of relaxation and enthusiasm when approaching his week-long session with the students at Community of Peace, a public charter school located at the corner of Burr Street and Magnolia Avenue.

Mr. Her, the students’ teacher, recalls that “with the help of Charlie the students came up with most of the words in the sentences and then Charlie would put the melody and the chords to the song.”

McGuire remembers walking into the school and noticing a diversity of students, a relaxed atmosphere and an eagerness to learn.
Plus, the music room was awash in character and instruments -- everything from drums to horns to a guitar.

And as the song formed, the kids brought in other instruments to fill out the piece, he says.

“It’s really great that way. There’s nothing sadder than seeing a bare room with a few pictures on the wall and a set of risers.”

McGuire describes the song as a folk song with a modern twist and a “hip beat.”

Sadly, the teens who wrote the song with McGuire have all graduated from Community of Peace Academy, and were not able to be tracked down for this article. In fact, they likely don’t even know they’ve won an award, McGuire says.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or eastside@lillienews.com, or follow on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.
 

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