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A P.S. 38 Recording Studio Teaches Kids Music Through Technology

BOERUM HILL — Hassan Salaam’s office used to be just an office. But a month ago, the P.S. 38 parent coordinator’s narrow space was transformed with speaker sets, keyboards, computers, a mixing board and an array of other equipment.

It is now “The Network Recording Studios.”

Three days a week at the Boerum Hill School, Salaam teaches an after-school program on how to produce music in a recording studio, using digital audio workstations, loops, vocal recording equipment, among others.

“You don’t have to be classically trained to play music,” said 29-year-old Salaam, who is also a professional music producer.

Salaam began teaching the class on Feb. 1 to students in kindergarten to fifth grade. The paid program costs $70 for the eight-week course and so far, about 20 students have signed-up.

George, a student at The Pacific School, sat in front of a laptop, his ears covered by a giant pair of headphones. He focused on the screen in front of him, filled with complicated dials, levels and waveforms that he adjusted as he listened to the music. When Salaam unplugged his headphones and played George’s song on speakers, both student and teacher concentrated on the David Guetta-esque tune that resounded throughout the room, bobbing their heads to the beat.

“He’s structuring his own song. A first grader,” said Salaam, excitedly.

Salaam said he wants his students to identify their sense of sound through music and technology. “Even though their learning from a digital aspect the [musical] foundation is still there.”

The Pacific School has a strong focus on the arts, having partnerships with the Mark Morris Dance Group and Alvin Ailey, according to an InsideSchools review.

The idea for the recording studio came up about two years ago, when Salaam taught “Garage Band,” an Apple music-production program, to first grade students. It wasn’t until this year, with the help of Department of Education and PTA funds that the studio really took off.

Although “The Network Recording Studios” is only a month old, Salaam said he plans to conduct another eight-week cycle later in the school year. He hopes the program will become a regular after-school one, a summer camp program and maybe even a regular class in the future. He even hopes to add more musical equipment to the room for students who want to learn how to play.

But the music producer said he isn’t looking for the next Alicia Keyes or Quincy Jones. He wants his students to develop an understanding of genres, their likes and dislikes and also to learn to respect each other’s work.

Two more boys entered the recording studio and began to listen to George’s song. A few minutes later, one of the boys took over and began to add his own elements to the original score. As they listened to the music, the boys began to dance carelessly in the middle of the room.

“The proof is there,” said Hassan, watching them dance. “[They’re learning] a greater appreciation for music.”