Attendance Records Teaches Students to See The World, Differently

2014color3Non-profit organization Attendance Records is prepared to release their new album–The World, Differently–composed of material culled from a collaboration with high school students and some accomplished Austin musicians. They will celebrate the release with a show this Saturday at Studium on East 5th featuring performances by Walker Lukens, Matt Hines, Ramesh, Claire Puckett, and Lizzie Buckley. The program works through area high schools and teaches during-the-day, in-class lessons to students about the music industry, covering everything from songwriting to album art to marketing. Attendance Records’ slogan proudly declares: “Creativity. Courage. Confidence. Students being heard one record at a time.” They live up to that goal as they fill a vital need for young people that public school seem to have forgotten entirely.

I’ll keep the soapbox philosophizing to a minimum, but as an educator of ten years, I can attest that the rise of standardized testing has all but obliterated students’ drive and interest in thinking creatively or working artistically. It is through artistic outlets (theater, film, music, fine arts) that we most clearly observe individuals’ voices. Attendance Records offers students an opportunity to find that voice and in the process to gain self-value.

As an educator, I’ve often seen the public at large undervalue the capabilities of high school-age students. The school where I work, Cedar Ridge High School put on an awe-inspiring, professional caliber performance of In the Heights two years ago, and last year’s Ragtime was nearly as impressive. Young people possess incredible talent, and they simply need someone to believe this truth. I’m not surprised to find that the newest songs from Attendance Records with lyrics written entirely by high school freshmen and arrangements from Walker Lukens and The Eastern Sea far exceed expectation. This is not a novelty record, and while devoting money to buy this album can be considered charitable by law, it’s not charity in the colloquial sense of the word; you’ll be doing yourself a favor.

These high school students provide the lyrics and ideas and Walker Lukens and The Eastern Sea bring them to life beautifully and elegantly. The Eastern Sea and Lukens work together impeccably well, both providing their own distinct touches but blending their aesthetics excellently. Lukens provides a little bit of soulful grit while The Eastern Sea delivers aching brass. Both of these acts can agree on their consistent use of strong, insistent beats. By completely adopting the feel of the songs’ lyrics, these artist make sentiments that might seem elementary (lyrics “I feel like a soda, dropped on the ground,” or track title “#thisishowiwin”) feel refreshing, unpretentious, and honest. “#thisishowiwin” features the best amalgam of both artist’s styles with stop start beat-boxing from Lukens, restrained brass from Eastern Sea, and some experimental vocal effects.

It would be enough for these songs to exist on their own–they’re solid and worthy of praise. Yet Attendance Records gives us reasons far above the music to care about this new album. Program organizers Jenna Carrens and Katie Payne along with these talented Austin songwriters have taught young people to see themselves as capable, valuable, and creative. They’ve learned to see themselves differently, and in turn now see the world, differently–a world blossoming with art and beauty with themselves as contributors.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.

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