New music by Mt. Airy students tells stories of growing up in their neighborhoods

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Henry H. Houston 5th graders (from left) Jasmine O’Connor

Henry H. Houston 5th graders (from left) Jasmine O’Connor

Today in Philadelphia, city council chambers will fill with music written by kids who worry about violence in city neighborhoods and question what the future holds for them.

The kids have collaborated to create a new album entitled “A Day in My Life.” It’s the work of students at Mt. Airy’s Henry H. Houston Elementary School and a non-profit organization called LiveConnections, which builds community through music-making.

“I call it musical mentoring,” Ezechial Thurman, the music teacher who helped lead the project, said. “This is so vital for them to attach their current learning to a picture that they have in their mind of where they’re headed.”

This album is the culmination of a year-long collaboration between Houston Elementary and LiveConnections. The residency integrated writing, music and performance and featured writing workshops, poetry intensives, and weekly workshops on songwriting and music composition.

The students — who ranged across several grades — used professional recording studios and even teamed up with Andrew Jackson Elementary School for the song “Similarities.” The song “Dear Future Me” was written by eighth grader Jaheim Armstrong and is a “conversation” between his current and future self — played by rapper Atiba Halisi. 

Houston fifth grader Saniah Dean, who worked on the project, said that the collaboration with Jackson worked because they understood each other’s situations.

“We all understood how in both of our neighborhoods that there’s violence,” Dean, 11, said. “We need to change how our neighborhoods are and we need to stop the violence because it hurts many families.

“We have serious conversations [about neighborhood violence] ,” she added. “But during those serious conversations, we talk about how we can make a change. We were thinking about going out on holidays to go to the shelters and help feed the homeless people or take our extra coats and give it to them because they need it more than we do.”

To hear Jennifer Lynn’s interview with the Houston Elementary School group that put together “A Day In My Life,” press play at the top. For information on the album, go to LiveConnections.org.

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