Mount Airy: Studio Enables Students to Combat Bullying with Song

Rural Lane Records
Three students from Houston School record an original song inside the school’s studio, Rural Lane Records, for the CD “Bully”, which was released Friday, June 14, 2013, in Mount Airy, Pennsylvania. (PCCY Picasso Project/Ellie Seif)

Students at Henry H. Houston School are making their voices heard when it comes to bullying.

But rather than speaking out against it, these students are singing out.

Unveiled before an audience of students, teachers and community members Friday, June 14, “Bully” is the first album to come out of the school.

The ceremony concluded the yearlong Houston School Anti-Bullying CD Project, in which middle school students worked closely with their language arts teachers and community mentors to develop poetry that confronts bullying.

Guided by Houston music teacher Ezechial Thurman and local artists and mentors, students performed and recorded the songs in the Henry H. Houston recording studio called Rural Lane Records. Musical genres were selected to reflect the cultural diversity of the Houston School and the Mount Airy community. Friday’s ceremony celebrated the release of the CD to the school and local community.

Founded by Thurman, Rural Lane Records is a school-based digital recording studio located in the music classroom. The studio gives students the opportunity to work in a real recording studio to create and record songs that affect positive social change in the school and community. The project was funded in part by Public Citizens for Children and Youth’s Picasso Project and the Mt. Airy/Chestnut Hill Teacher’s Fund as well as Houston Elementary. The local nonprofit Action Harvest, Inc. provided the network of artist mentors.

Houston School Anti-Bullying CD Project
Two Houston students perform a song from the school’s first CD “Bully” at an event on Friday, June 14, 2013, in Mount Airy, Pennsylvania. The ceremony concluded the yearlong anti-bullying project. (PCCY Picasso Project/Ellie Seif)

“Today teachers have less and less to work with in classrooms,” said Ken Weinstein, who founded the Mt. Airy/Chestnut Hill Teacher’s Fund in 2007 after recognizing that many local teachers were forced to pay out of pocket for educational projects and supplies due to a lack of funding.

This year, support from outside organizations is particularly meaningful after the School District of Philadelphia suffered severe budget cuts. As a result of the $300 million deficit, 23 of the city’s schools have closed and over 3,000 teachers have been laid off. Funding reserved for music and art programs, libraries, guidance counselors and other forms of student support systems has been cut the most dramatically.

“These types of projects are extremely important at a time like this,” said Weinstein.

Ellie Seif serves as both photographer and liaison for the Picasso Project Grant on behalf of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, which is dedicated to increasing and improving art education for students in the School District of Philadelphia.

“We have to provide the music and arts when they’re getting cut in schools,” said Seif.