By SAMANTHA SMYLIE
Stavroula Sparagis, an English teacher at Kenwood Academy, and a few students gathered to collaborate on songs during a Wednesday night session at Beats and Bars, an afterschool club for students to focus on lyricism and Hip-Hop music.
Most students were working on lyrics together while others were producing beats with the equipment that Sparagis purchased after successfully funding a DonorChoose.org campaign. In November of 2018, Sparagis submitted a project to buy studio equipment for her students. She wanted a desktop Mac, a microphone, headphones, and a mouse that would cost $2,800.
Sparagis hoped that the project would be funded by March 27, but she was surprised to find that the project was fully funded by February 28.
“I’m so astounded by the generosity, the positive energy and how many people were excited for us to do this. [On the project’s page] I recognized so many Hyde Park names because so many of their children came through Kenwood,” said Sparagis.
For Phalair Carter, one of the co-creators of Beats and Bars, having studio equipment at school has been a dream come true.
“I feel like it is the best thing ever. I’m so happy and excited. Now, we can actually collaborate with the artists that have been here. I can’t believe that we actually did it. The morning that I saw that we had all the money, I almost cried. It was just amazing because it was a dream that we had finally become a reality,” said Carter.
Before building the studio, students in Beats and Bars created music on their phones or at home.
For Myles Gillespie, a third-year student, having a studio at school has made it easier to collaborate with peers. Gillespie is a part of the trio Clear Conscious, a rap group that consists of Carter and London Roddy — co-creator of Beats and Bars. Carter and Gillespie met in their freshman year and Roddy was later added to the group.
“It was harder for them to get to my house to record music. It might cost money if you need to take an uber or something. Having the studio makes it easier to record and produce because it is literally in your school,” said Gillespie.
Although the project has been funded for a few months, community members have been reaching out to Sparagis to find ways to donate equipment and other resources to support her students.
“What’s really great is that so many people in the community are asking what more could be done. Some of the parents are donating speakers and then there are people who are interested in making other donations. This studio is the building block and others will help to add on to that building block and we can make something bigger and better,” said Sparagis.
Sparagis and her students look forward to working with local community members to add more to their studio, growing Beats and Bars to include more students at Kenwood — especially girls — and offering students the opportunity to work with artists in Chicago.