At VSAA, 7 local teens hop aboard John Lennon bus

Group creates original music video

By Howard Buck, Columbian staff writer

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For an inside look at the John Lennon Bus and tour details:

Lennon Bus

The music video created at VSAA is expected to post later this week.

Participants were Emily Bryan, 17, VSAA senior, cello and vocalist; Salena Walker, 18, 2011 VSAA graduate, violin; Stone Laurila, 17, VSAA senior, bass guitar and guitar; Dan Beggs, 18, VSAA senior, guitar and vocals; Alyosha Weyman, 17, Hockinson High School senior, piano; Nick Shaw, 19, VSAA 2011 graduate, videographer; and Isaac Chamberlain, 18, VSAA 2011 graduate, video production.

Inside the big, midnight-blue bus that bears the image of the man who invited the world to “Imagine,” the young local students let their musical creative powers flow.

“Stone and Dan started on guitar, with some chord progressions. Then, Salena joined in,” said Emily Bryan, 17, a senior at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics. “It just happened from there.”

Bryan chimed in with her cello, then began improvising with her voice, adding a haunting, lilting melody.

With help of three more contributors who, respectively, played piano, manned video cameras and helped edit and polish the whole works, several hours later the seven lucky students had produced an original music video from scratch Wednesday, mostly inside the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus.

The bus stopped in the VSAA courtyard during its nationwide tour to expose students to audio and video technology that underpins modern music today. It’s the 14th year the nonprofit effort, funded by large business firms and blessed by the former Beatle’s widow, Yoko Ono, has crisscrossed America on its teaching mission, free of charge to students.

“It just all came together,” said Bryan, who played in the VSAA orchestra with Salena Walker, 18, a 2011 graduate and violin player starting studies (today) at a Connecticut school of music.

“It’s really exciting for me to get together with people my age who are excited about music,” Bryan said. Besides her music, she’s acted in musical theater but said, “I’ve never been this hands-on, and never in something I’ve just created with other people.”

David Tang, VSAA science instructor who also teaches audio engineering and music production classes, helped select the team of seven from nearly two dozen local students who applied.

Inside the school building, another 60 youths attended one or more free training sessions on three hugely important software programs any budding garage band member, video or broadcast producer, or prospective filmmaker should know.

Professional coaches — including well-known Carson musician-educator Mike Klinger — ran them through digital composing, recording and production steps on Pro Tools, Sibelius and Avid Media software.

“If you’re listening to any recorded music or going to the movies, it’s gone through Pro Tools,” Tang explained. He marvels at the pace of technology advances during his own career, during which recording and producing has switched from hardware to software. Today, editors have “the ability to do this cutting and editing, even as the cameras are rolling,” he said.

Most visitors Wednesday were high-school age, but there also were middle school students, and even a few elementary school students, Tang said.

The Avid media courses appealed to Dakota Wixom, 16, a VSAA junior. He’s studying video production, but his real goal is to create his own animated and computer-generated work, he said.

Avid software is “more film-based than digital-based” but remains the go-to resource for his craft, Wixom said. “There’s a steeper learning curve, but more functionality.”

Back on the big Lennon bus, the bluish glow of Macbooks and digital soundboards and the like were at times outshone, thankfully, by the simple spark of human genius.

“I think (Lennon) was an amazing person, and I think it’s great we can keep the magic of music going in all this … hectic world,” Bryan said.

Keeping the video team on course was Lennon project engineer Ryan L’Esperance, 24, a California native and one of three young leaders on hand Wednesday, rolling from tour stop to tour stop.

The bus visited Toppenish High School on Monday and will be in Olympia on Friday.

“I’ve been living on this bus for nearly three years,” L’Esperance said, running his fingers over the controls. “A lot of miles, a lot of days. A lot of things, a lot of fun.”

Howard Buck: 360-735-4515 or howard.buck@columbian.com.