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High School Nation visits high school with bands, donates recording studio

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - FGHS students got to play around with musical instruments and recording equipment Wednesday morning as part of a High School Nation arts festival. Forest Grove High School students sang along under cloudy skies as the Plain White T's played their most popular songs on the football turf Wednesday morning, May 17.

The Plain White T's and other bands aim to inspire students to appreciate music through High School Nation, an organization that partners with sponsors to bring free traveling music and arts festivals to public high schools across the country, exposing youth to the arts and donating sound equipment to their schools. FGHS was one of 60 schools across the country selected for the event this year.

In addition to the concert, all 2,000 FGHS students had the chance to listen to live music, create art and play with high-tech equipment.

The organization donated a $30,000 recording studio complete with mixers and software to FGHS. They'll install it for free, too, said FGHS Principal Karen O'Neill, once school leaders find the right place for it.

"This sounds really awesome," O'Neill remembers thinking when organization staff contacted her about the event and equipment donation. "There's got to be some catch."

But after researching the organization, she couldn't find one, so O'Neill accepted the offer.

Jimmy Cantillon of High School Nation told O'Neill that FGHS's demographics, focus on the arts and "off the beaten path" location made the school a prime candidate for the festival and donation.

Students visited booths set up with instruments and recording equipment, listened to live performances, met musicians, created colorful paintings on records and socialized with their classmates.

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Students listened to live concerts, including a performance by the band the Plain White Ts. Sophomores Stephanie Ross and Carmen Vasquez said they enjoyed the variety of performances and meeting both artists and students they didn't know.

"It's awesome. There's so much to do I don't even know what I should do," said FGHS student Dessarae Myatt, who participates in band and choir but met a lot of other peers interested in music through festival activities. "I've met so many new people and other talented students who I didn't even know."

FGHS English teacher Steve Harloff said it was fun to witness students enjoying the event and singing along at the concerts. "I think students who've never touched an instrument before are over there playing with the equipment and exploring music," he said. "There are those of us who have spent most of our lives at rock concerts but for a lot of these kids this is a big deal."

Juniors Henry Sprueill and Joel Kane were skeptical of the event before attending, they said, but were pleasantly surprised by how much fun they were having. Kane, not formally a musician, tried out the drums. "It was a cool hands-on experience," he said.

"It's been a really great experience," said junior Karime Lozano. These artists "came from really far away just to be with us."

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Students splashed paint on music records, making their own custom colorful discs.

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Freshman Maria Gutierrez (left) and Vanessa Moreno made their own painted records Wednesday.

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