Lew-Port students create original songs for music project

Edwin J. Viera, Niagara Gazette, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
·4 min read

Apr. 8—LEWISTON — Students at Lewiston-Porter Middle School have been busy with a special project for music class. During this past fall semester, students were tasked with creating an original song about whatever they wanted, which have been uploaded to the district's YouTube channel, under anonymous band names.

Due to the pandemic, students had less time to work on this project given they were only in the classroom two days a week, and virtual for three. Mark Marinaccio, the Lew-Port Middle School music teacher who came up with the assignment, said he feels it's important to create and go beyond just learning about music. Rather, this project allows students to get creative with knowledge they've learned throughout the class., starting in sixth grade.

"We broke the project down into multiple facets," he said. "Obviously, I teach them in sixth and seventh grade about the elements of music: beat, rhythm, texture, implementation, and all that kind of stuff. It all culminates in eighth grade with the first unit, we learn about poetry and rhyme scheme. Then we pick a topic. They pick the topics, I don't really push back on them regarding much. Obviously, I don't let them write about things that are going to get them called down to the office. We do a lyric unit and basically teach them how to structure a stanza of words. Following that, we learn a little bit about the harmonic underpinnings of the song."

After this, students learn about chord progression, harmonic rhythm, and how to use music making software, with students using Cubase to create these songs. Finally, students analyze song forms, learning about pop music ranging from the 1950s to now. One thing Marinaccio instills in his students is to take the assignment seriously, while also having fun with it. Students said they enjoyed the project, with several calling the process interesting because they've never tried it before.

Alyssa Auer, daughter of Lew-Port Middle School Principal Andrew Auer, created a song with fellow student Ashley Chamberlin about Disney, called "Happily Ever After." The inspiration for the song came from Auer's family trips to Disney theme parks as a kid. She said creating this song was fun to work on, especially, developing the lyrics and coming up with a melody. However, there were a few challenges along the way.

"There were a few challenges like not having the melody and the lyrics match up," Auer said. "Sometimes when we were recording our lyrics, we'd mess up the words or sing it off key. But, we overcame these challenges by working hard and doing it right until it sounded like a song."

Some of her favorite moments in creating the song were making the melody using different samples and starting from scratch in doing it. Though the duo originally planned on creating a song about sports, their mutual love for Disney won out. Most songs were influenced by a personal love of something or a particular TV show, in Sophia Renzi's case.

Her song, "The Office Anthem", created with classmate Madison Martin, pays tribute to the U.S. comedy series, "The Office", with the duo's band name being, Dunder and Mifflin, a reference to the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. She chose to do a song about "The Office" because it's a show that's helped her through hard times, and she figured, instead of doing a song on a more generic topic like food, this would be more meaningful. Renzi spoke about how the process felt and hearing the finished song.

"In the beginning I kind of thought, oh this isn't that fun," Renzi said. "But once we started writing the lyrics, and started creating the beat, and actually started synching it, I thought this is pretty cool that I'm 13 and in eighth grade and I'm making my own song. Once I heard the finished product, there were some parts were I was like, oh wow, okay. But then there were other parts were I was like this is our song, this is pretty cool."

Renzi said one of the challenges in her song were rhyming, especially while remaining on topic. Deciding on the beat as well as what the kind of instruments for the background were also challenging, but the duo made it work in the end. Other students, like Dylan DuMoulin, who helped to create the song "Shoes", by The Sneaker Gang, felt this was a pretty great assignment and seeing the song online was awesome.

A new class of students began working on original songs in January, with those songs being released in June 2021.