Stand Up & Shout: Songs of a Philly High SchoolHBO and John Legend’s new documentary, Get Lifted Film Co., follows students at Hill-Freedman World Academy in Philadelphia as they spend their second year in a music class and create an album of original songs, each of which they personally wrote. composed, produced and sung.
The film was directed by the Emmy and Peabody winner Amy darling (We Are the Dream: The Children of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest And In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on September 11th) shows students returning to classrooms for the first time in two years due to the COVID pandemic. They go into the experience not knowing what to expect, and in the end they create expressive, empowering and soulful music.
Award-winning local musicians Kristal “Tytewriter” Oliver, Andrew Lipke and Bethlehem Roberson, as well as program director and music technology teacher Ezechial Thurman, joined the 10th graders as instructors and staff.
“First of all, it will touch your hearts. It tugged at my heartstrings,” Oliver, co-writer of Danity Kane’s “Showstopper,” tells Yahoo Entertainment about the documentary. “You can expect to laugh, you can expect to cry, and you can expect to see these students come to life right before your eyes. You can watch them bloom like a flower right before your eyes.”
Danielle Hodges, Adrian Guzman, Kemet Kittrell and Santee Snaith, who were 10th graders at the time of filming who were unfamiliar with the high school environment as they were learning remotely at the height of the pandemic. Now the seniors are happy that the project is finally here.
“It started as ninth grade, but that was virtual, so the magic didn’t happen until tenth grade,” Kittrell tells Yahoo Entertainment.
“We were back from the COVID-19 quarantine and it was pretty difficult,” Guzman says. “I think working on this album was a little push to make us feel a little more normal.”
“I think this will show the power of what we do in these classrooms to see the changes that take place,” Oliver says. “I think the changes are really going to blow people away.”
Making Music 101
Oliver, who has worked with major artists such as Diddy, Kanye West, Justin Timberlake, Jessie J and Estelle, says it was important to help students “not overthink the process” and remind them of it to simply “let it flow out” so that it is okay so as not to suppress your own creativity.
“I would focus on making sure students understand how to write their songs, what a song is, what a songwriter does, how to use concepts, how to use titles. Most importantly, how do you take what is inside you and get it to come out without limiting yourself? Oliver explains her priorities as a teacher.
She said her colleague Lipke focused on music production, helping students find different keys and chords, while Roberson focused on rhythm with the class. “She kind of showed the kids how to get out of your body, how to pace yourself and just feel the flow.”
Students worked both collaboratively and independently throughout the music production process.
“First we had to create a group that was basically like a label. Each student basically had their own label. I was in Hush Records, that was the name of my group,” Snaith tells Yahoo Entertainment. “[Within the group,] Everyone had to do their own thing. Like one of our classmates was the beatmaker. Another was the cameraman. I was basically a songwriter. Then I became the person who actually performed.
“We had executive producers, beatmakers, songwriters and lyricists, and some people sang the songs and some people didn’t,” says Hodges. “For me, I was the executive producer, the photographer and.” [one of] the songwriters, so I did all three [jobs].”
Did someone say John Legend?
Even though Legend wasn’t directly involved in the music creation or filming, it was exciting for those involved to learn that he served as an executive producer on the project.
“It went on and on from there [would] It was just little whispers… and then we found out about John Legend when the whole thing was done and I was like, ‘Wait, what?'” Oliver says. “There were rumors that there was going to be a very special executive producer for this project, but we didn’t know because they didn’t want it to spill out.”
The teachers and some of the students eventually got to know Legend in person Stand up and scream Premiere.
“We recently met at the world premiere and I met [documentary producer] Mike Jackson before. “Mike Jackson came to the school, met the students, did some interviews with them, some of the students sang for Mike Jackson, John’s partner in Get Lifted,” Oliver recalls.
“When I found out [about John Legend]“I was amazed that someone that big would focus on a small school like this and Philly in particular,” Hodges said.
“When I heard that John Legend was helping us and stuff like that, I was really crazy because I really admire him. I love all his songs,” she adds. “And then Mike Jackson, he’s the one who made that Christmas movie, Jingle Jangleand I really liked that.
Of the students Yahoo interviewed, only Guzman plans to pursue music in the future, but they all say they had an enlightening and uplifting experience that many others could only dream of.
Snaith jokes that he is a one-hit wonder because he doesn’t have a post with musical ambitions Stand up and scream, but “If someone says, ‘Hey, can you help me write a lyric, help me with something music-related?’ Hey, I don’t mind helping out, but in the long run, I’m not really following the music in the long run,” he says. “It was a nice experience coming in.”
Although Oliver is no longer teaching but continuing her solo career as a writer and artist, she is proud of her work at Hill-Freedman and looks forward to people seeing her pass on her passion for music and educate the next generation.
“My goal is never to lure anyone into the music industry or songwriting, unless they express that desire to me, you know, then I can probably mentor them outside of school,” she says, “but my goal is “It’s always about giving something to the students. “I didn’t have that when I was so young and what I lacked was self-confidence.”
Stand Up & Shout: Songs of a Philly High School is currently streaming on Max.