There is a strong group of musically-talented individuals at Mikinaak Onigaming School and they recently were given an outlet to express themselves.
A recording studio was built in the basement of the school in March, with the aim of giving students a place to tap into their musical talents and learn about production.
High school teacher Mario Ramos, with the help of staff, created the “Mikinaak Sound Studio.” It was funded through a grant from the Seven Generations Education Institute’s First Nation Student Success Program and the school’s budget.
“We knew that we had a group of very musically-talented young people at the school who wanted to do this sort of thing,” Ramos explained.
“It is challenging for our families to travel for these opportunities for their children,” he noted.
“We thought that having a studio here would make a big difference to our families.”
In addition to music production, the studio also is used for creating podcasts, which is becoming an increasingly-popular industry.
Using the studio is part of the Grade 10 and 11 course called Graphic Design and Broadcasting.
In the course, students currently are working on a project entitled “I Have a Dream,” which is based on the famous speech Martin Luther King Jr. delivered on Aug. 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“There are many future projects being planned for culminating activities, such as a video about the history of their community,” Ramos said.
The students’ response to the studio has been overwhelmingly positive and they have a lot of ideas for collaborations.
“They are very engaged in learning their way around the studio,” Ramos noted.
“This is just the beginning but already I see huge potential in this studio for helping students express themselves,” he added.
“It is something very positive for them.”
Musician Anna Atkinson, who currently lives in Montreal, visited the studio last week to get students familiar with recording programs like Ableton Live.
“I came to help them set up a little bit more for recording music because there are a lot of really talented musicians at the school and in this community,” she lauded.
“It’s been wonderful to get to come in and meet the students, see what they’re interested in, and try to help guide them a little bit.”
There are quite a few budding musicians at the school, and there’s a group of students interested in music production and beat making, Atkinson noted.
The studio has MIDI keyboards so students can play with samples, create a drum beat, and add in whatever sounds they choose in Ableton Live.
Some even write raps and freestyle.
“This is an opportunity for them to record what they’ve written and take it to another level,” Atkinson explained.
The level of enthusiasm shown by students towards the studio has been very uplifting for her to see.
“I find that very encouraging because being in high school, it’s an age where it’s sort of scary to take risks,” she noted.
“I know I felt that way when I was that age.
“But these students were there, they were paying attention, they seemed eager, and I’m very excited to see what they’re going to make,” she added.
Atkinson is glad to see so many students at Mikinaak Onigaming School who are passionate about creating music and use it as an outlet for expression.
“If someone is artistically inclined and they’re given a place they can do that thing, then I think it can be a game-changer,” she reasoned.
“It’s amazing,” she added. “I know I’ve experienced that first-hand.”
The studio still is being improved upon and the current programming only is in its beginning stages, Ramos said.
Moving forward, the plan is to bring more students and classes into the studio, and have teachers develop their knowledge and skills to enhance student learning.
“This is about the students and their future,” Ramos stressed. “I believe it will open their eyes to all of the wonderful possibilities.
“It will make a difference to our young people,” he added. “They have a lot to say, a lot of dreams, and so many great ideas.”
Ramos is grateful to everyone who has helped with this initiative.