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Students make music on the John Lennon bus

Students at the Edward J. Milliken Technical Center

Students at the Edward J. Milliken Technical Center in Oakdale record an original song on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. (Sept. 21, 2011) Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

In a space smaller than some closets, five audio production students had the opportunity to write, produce and record their own original song this week.

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, a mobile non-profit recording studio that tours the country, was parked at the Edward J. Milliken Technical Center - the Oakdale campus of Eastern Suffolk BOCES - on Tuesday and Wednesday, offering student and public tours, and a complete recording session for one group of students selected by their teachers.

BOCES made a request for the bus to stop at its Oakdale campus through an administrator with a connection to the nonprofit.

Barbara Egloff, divisional administrator for career, technical and adult education at Eastern Suffolk BOCES, called it the “opportunity of a lifetime,” for the students and staff.

“Thousands of requests are made each year and we were just one of a couple hundred that were able to have this opportunity,” she said.

Hans Tanner, a producer and engineer that tours with the bus, said the group’s mission is to work with students all over the country and of all musical abilities, even students who have never picked up an instrument before.

“We’re educational,” he said. “We can teach them.”

He said the students have complete creative control of the work they produce.

On Wednesday, the students recorded with the help of engineers that travel with the bus, and filmed a music video. They also had the guidance of a special guest - Alex Skolnick, lead guitarist for the metal band Testament and the Alex Skonick Trio - who was there for the day.

Skolnick, who has been in the industry for more than 20 years and was first signed to Testament when he was 16, said the educational tour bus is an opportunity he never had while growing up.

The first time he ever stepped into a recording studio was after he was signed. He said the students were gaining a great advantage by getting that experience in their “formative years” as artists.

“They’ll get an experience from the ground up instead of being thrown into the wilderness - which I remember what that’s like, going into the studio for the first time,” he said. “It’s a little intimidating.”

The studio is equipped with top-of-the-line audio production equipment by Avid, instruments and Apple computers, and was once used by pop group The Black Eyed Peas to record on the road.

Ashleen Jones, 17, of Bohemia, one of the students selected to record on the bus, said it was a unique experience that gave her an authentic feel of the audio production industry.

“I get to be creative and put in my idea and also perform and then do the audio recording and technical stuff,” she said. “It’s really cool.”

Tanner said the bus has been touring for about 15 years and takes the Lennon name thanks to an agreement with Yoko Ono, who agreed with its mission.

He said that every place they visit is a slightly different experience, and in some cases, the student’s day on the bus is their entire music education.

“Having these kids come on and kind of seeing their eyes light up like, ‘This is my day to do whatever I want with a multimillion dollar studio,’ and just teaching them how to create their vision is something I never get tired of,” Tanner said. “That’s what we’re all about.”

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