ABS Thursday Notes- November 4, 2021

Published for the Arts Based School Community

November 4, 2021

No School: November 11 - Veterans Day

November 12 - Wellness Day (pending Board Vote)

How We Do It and Why

By Mary Siebert

“You can’t really imagine music without technology.” - Brian Eno

Technology has impacted music dramatically through the years, from the first stretch of goatskin over a carved djembe, to the shift from the delicate harpsichord to the powerful piano, to the meticulously designed auditorium, to the invention of radio. It marches ever on, constantly changing, as musicians master one aspect of fresh development and seek more innovations.

In the late 1970s, I was approached by a young music student who was working with new technology: a music synthesizer. I myself was a music student, working with very old technology: the human voice. The synthesizing fellow asked whether I would contribute recorded “samples” of my voice to a project he was building. His project was intriguing and unique, and I agreed to do it. While there were not yet personal computers widely available, personal-sized music synthesizers had been created and marketed by Robert Moog beginning in 1970, but I had never seen one. (A visit to the interactive Moogseum in Asheville is recommended and fun!)

I was ushered to a microphone, where I was to sing each note in my range, one at a time. While this may sound simple enough, it actually requires some sophisticated understanding of the voice to accomplish. A singer has to make complex physical adjustments in order to produce a quality of voice that is both pleasingly resonant and equalized from bottom to top, so that the sound doesn’t split into segments that seem unrelated to one another, or become tight, breathy, over-darkened, etc. The synthesizer fellow wanted an equalized and uniform sound throughout three octaves, from well below the treble staff to well above it.

Once I had completed the recording, the fellow demonstrated to me that he could now push a key, and my voice would come out on that pitch, presto! This was disconcerting, marvellous, and troubling all at once. It was a little like he’d captured my very soul in a bottle, and was now releasing it however and whenever he chose. But there was no going back, and I figured nothing would ever come of this newfangled electronic music, anyway.

This week, music teacher Court Wynter introduced our 8th graders to working with our new music tech lab, in the soaring new music room at the 7th Street building. Not only can they make use of vocal samples, but they can use samples of every instrument on earth. They can “grab and drag” snippets of pre-composed “loops” of music and rhythmic patterns, layer them together in a matter of seconds, and repeat them to create endlessly unique compositions. They can change the time signature, the key, the genre with a few clicks. This first stage of tinkering with the offerings of Garage Band is considered to be akin to using BIG Lego blocks. The process is so simple that it assures success, but it’s still full of choice and possibility, and is entertaining and engaging. In making unique creations with these building blocks, students are solving problems and will soon be analyzing the popular music they love, recognizing that the same drum and bass patterns have been looped over and over, to create that groove they like, and layered electronically over other repeated patterns. (This same technique of “ostinato” has been employed by composers for generations, using live musicians instead of precomposed, electronic ones.) Our students were fully engaged, on day one.

Beyond these first steps, there are vast learning possibilities through music tech. Each station has a midi keyboard, for input of original ideas. (This will begin with patterns they have recently been studying on keyboards with Mr. Court: chords and melody for Heart and Soul and Jingle Bells, for example.) That material can be altered and tinkered with. They can sing or play an instrument into a microphone. They can create original beats on a drum pad.

Although familiarity and comfort with tech can give students a leg up to careers in sound engineering or production, singers and instrumentalists should also remain familiar with technology. It’s helpful to have understanding and, perhaps, some control over how their sounds are produced on recordings or amplified and altered in live performance. They can explore, through sophisticated curriculum (created and tailored for us by Liz May, of SoundLizzard Productions,) that include acoustics, digital theory, signal flow and equipment, fundamentals of sound and frequency, and much more. Projects that rely on music tech such as advertising jingles, podcasts, and instructional apps lie ahead for our students. 

This lab is permanently arranged around the periphery of the music room, so that Mr. Court could move from large group instruction or rehearsal to music tech, without setting up or breaking down equipment. The new room provides ample space and beautiful sound, for singing, drumming, and all manner of instruments. Now, we have also invited in the 21st Century, and we have space enough for that as well.

Thanks From the New Music Room

The various elements of each station of our new music tech lab were researched and selected for us by ABS parent Bill Stevens, an owner of Ovation Sound, sound engineer and producer, guitarist, pianist, and composer. Bill volunteered to set up and connect our studio and has helped with all aspects of function, training, and general encouragement. He is excited that our students will have this opportunity to build skills that can pave the way to a broad variety of careers in the music industry. Bill has also provided maintenance and repair of our guitars, and was the broadcaster of our live streams of Friday Sing, during distance learning. We are deeply grateful for his generosity.

The hand-made wooden headset hangers above each of our eight student tech stations were built and installed by Joe Madras, a friend of the school who donated time, expertise, and materials.

A beautiful Kawai baby grand piano was donated to the music program by another friend of the school, David Bell. Mr. Bell is also gifting the room with a theremin! (Next Halloween, we’ll have some scary sounds mastered to share.)

Stay tuned for more reports about the other half of our new 7th Street addition: the gym and Coach Bri!

Possible Calendar Change

The ABS Board of Directors is in favor of giving students and staff the day of Nov 12 off as a Wellness Day. The official vote will take place in the public meeting on Nov 9th, but this will give parents more time to make arrangements in their plans and schedules.

ABS is already scheduled to be out Thursday, Nov 11 for Veterans Day. We would not need to "make up" this day because we already have enough extra hours scheduled for the school year to meet the requirements. 


ABS Annual Giving!

Our month-long push for Annual Giving has come to an end, and ABS is so very grateful to everyone who participated this year! Thank you. Your support of ABS goes a long way toward bridging the gap between what it costs to operate the school and what ABS receives in state and federal funding. If you meant to give but missed the official deadline for class counting, we will gratefully accept your contributions anytime. Thank you!!

Total School Participation: 47%

Total Gifts: $53,214

Conference Time is Coming

Soon your child’s teacher will be setting up conferences to discuss your child’s progress. Students attending the Arts Based School are assessed using a portfolio system in place of the traditional report card. The portfolio is designed to illustrate a student’s academic growth and successes as well as guide the teacher in planning appropriate instruction. Teachers at ABS do not issue letter grades. Teachers use observation, interviews, analysis of student work and performance tasks to assess student understanding. Examples of student work, as well as other objective standards of assessments, are incorporated into the student’s portfolio to give an enhanced portrait of the student’s progress. These portfolios will be discussed and presented to parents during the Student-Teacher-Parent conferences. Please be sure you schedule and attend your conference so that you can support your child’s learning. 

Conference Days- November 19- Early Dismissal

  • K-4 Dismiss at 11:45
  • 5-8 Dismiss at 12 noon

Prospective Parent Tours

School tours for prospective parents are scheduled weekly on Thursdays at 9:30am. Each tour is limited to 10 adults in an effort to limit the disruption to our students and teachers in the classrooms. Parents interested in learning more about ABS and how to enroll their child should contact the front office to sign up for a tour: 748-4116 ext 1023. Applications will be accepted beginning January 1. The lottery will be held on the second Tuesday of February.

Help Making Short Films

ABS is hoping to generate a few short films to help with new parent orientation and virtual school tours. If you have experience and/or equipment and you’re interested in possibly being a part of this, please reach out to us. Thanks!

Help Moving Heavy Sets

Volunteers are needed after early dismissal on Friday, November 19, from 12:30-1:30, to return sets, props, and costumes from the theater to the basement, and to bring sets and props for the next show up into the theater. The process will require about one hour. Although the heaviest pieces are on wheels, strength is needed to tilt and angle them to get them through low spaces. We will meet in the Ewing blackbox theater in the MLK building at 12:30. Please reply to Leah Lavin if you can help! Thank you!

New ABS T-Shirts Available!

If you’d like to show your ABS pride (or need a gift for someone who loves ABS or an ABS student), we have some new options for you!

To help mark the occasion of our 20th Anniversary, we are rolling out new commemorative gear with a vintage vibe.


When ABS was founded 20 years ago, we were actually ABES: Arts Based Elementary School. We added 6th grade in 2012, and dropped “Elementary” from our name for good. The 7th and 8th grades were added in each successive year.

Our first logo was a shield in the shape of an open book. Then in 2012, ABS parent Katie Hoyme created the logo we still largely use today: the hand lettering with the “classic swirl.” In 2020, we launched a new website, and with it, a series of gears and cogs designed by artist and ABS parent Ellen Heck, based on the welded metal window inserts in the 7th street building and courtyard by metal sculptor Duncan Lewis. 

Now, we’re drawing on all of these elements to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this great place with all of its spunk and charm and depth and life. Let’s hear it for ABS!

How This Works: 

  • All orders must be placed by November 18.
  • We will send your orders home with your ABS student the week of December 13.
  • The "Shipping" purchase item is for ABS alums and others who live further afield and need their items mailed. You will not be charged for shipping unless you add this item to your cart. 
  • The checkout process will ask for your "shipping" address regardless of whether or not you need your item shipped to you. Just go with the flow, please. 
  • We may need volunteers to help us fulfill orders. :) If that sounds fun to you, please email us
  • A portion of each sale comes back to ABS to help support our school. Thank you!!

You can browse the new shirts (and a fun bandana) here

Around Town

Ardmore Art Walk: November 6

You and your families are invited to the Holiday Ardmore Art Walk, a fun outdoor art and craft show showcasing the work of over 80 Ardmore resident artists and their guests! Artists will display work on their own lawns 11am-4:30pm on Saturday, November 6. A great way to knock out holiday shopping while supporting local artists, many of whom are part of the ABS family! There will also be live music around the neighborhood and food trucks in the parking lot of Ardmore Baptist Church. 

Nutcracker Tea: Dec. 18 and 19

UNCSA’s Preparatory Dance Nutcracker Tea Party will be held December 18 and 19 at the Agnes de Mille Theatre on UNCSA’s campus. As a thank you to the Arts Based School for hosting our performances in past years, UNCSA is offering a $5.00 discount on tickets to staff, faculty and students.

The code is ABSTEA and it can be used for internet or telephone purchases. Visit uncsa.edu/nutcrackertea to learn more.

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