Philadelphia - On Friday morning, October 4, in an effort to raise awareness of the vital need for art programs in the public schools, Martin Luther King High School hosted the premier arts festival for students called High School Nation. The vacant field behind the school which borders Stenton Avenue was transformed into what loosely resembled a carnival midway comprised of numerous tents, trailers, booths, and a large concert stage which served as the focal point for the festivities. For over two hours, inner city teens were treated to an expansive smorgasbord of arts related activities, giveaways, and a private concert featuring Stamps, DJ Kakez, Justine Skye, and headlining heartthrob Trevor Jackson.
In a brief, pre-event interview, founder, Jimmy Cantillon stated that the origin of this formidable venture began a decade ago when he started placing artists in schools to perform free concerts during lunchtime. The event took a drastic upswing in scope about two years ago when record labels became involved. Since then, each tour boasts more and more sponsors which means more and more opportunities for the kids. “Adults already have their share of Coachella type festivals, High School Nation is for the kids,” Jimmy pointed out.
Ernie Ball Music Man’s Kyle Krueger is part of the small sound crew responsible for setting up the massive stage and running the live show at each stop on the 20 date tour. Kyle compared High School Nation to another festival that he works: “It’s pretty much the same thing we do on the Warped Tour, but we just have less people on staff, so it’s a little bit of extra time and a little bit of extra work, but the days are shorter and the weather is ten times nicer!”
Jimmy refers to the event as the “anti-assembly.” Instead of gathering kids in an auditorium and lecturing them about the benefits of arts programs, he brings a festival to their doorstep and shows the students the real life, practical results such programs can produce. And, through the participation of sponsors, High School Nation also provides kids with numerous hands-on-the-instruments/feet-on-the-stage/ears-in-the-studio experiences.
Kyle Baudour, Producer/Engineer at John Lennon Educational Tour Bus (a free, fully equipped mobile audio/video recording studio) offered a brief summary of what the kids could expect at the festival. “We want to get as many of the kids on the bus as possible, so today, the tour will be quick, anywhere between two minutes to five minutes long with up to twenty kids on the bus at once. We show videos of what other kids have done, play the music, tell them about the bus and tell them about our mission — not all schools have music programs and that is why we do what we do. We’ll run them through the studio and tell them about all the different features it has and tell them a little bit about John Lennon. Then, we’ll have a huge dance party listening to The Beatles. It’ll be a very high energy two hours. It will go by fast!”
Throughout the course of the two hour event, students were deluged with thousands of dollars of giveaways ranging from clothing to gift cards to high-end musical gear! Jimmy Cantillon fuels kids’ dreams, then he gives them the match to ignite their passions!
Stamps are a “melt-your-face,” power pop band who offer a cross between a rock show and an onstage dance party. Lead vocalist, Ren Patrick, also breaks the performer/audience barrier by leaping into the crowd during the set so she can sing amidst the fans. Stamps’ touring guitarist, Dave Cavalier, commented, “In high school, arts and music made such a huge impact on who Ren was and on who I was, as well as the person I know Adam [James, drums] to be. It was such a big part of our lives and to think about it getting taken away from people before they even know what it can do for them . . .” He paused, shaking his head. “We want kids to discover themselves. We want them to have fun. We want them to enjoy life and, since music is the way that we do it, we figure maybe it will work for them, too.”
For more information on High School Nation or any of the event sponsors or bands involved, visit: highschoolnation.org.