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Music in Schools: High School Nation

In keeping with Strymon’s continued commitment to support and promote music in schools, we are pleased to announce that we recently partnered with the High School Nation program in Los Angeles.

Inspiring young musicians to explore and create their own music is something near and dear to Strymon’s heart as many of us were involved in some sort of music program growing up. Check out our interview with High School Nation’s Founder, Jimmy Cantillon, below to learn more about the program and how you can get involved. You can see more photos and videos of the program in action on the HSN Instagram page.

High School Nation

How did High School Nation get started?

HSN started when my younger brother, Tommy, started his first high school band. I was helping Tommy out and managing his band. He saw that there were not many options for venues that teen bands could perform at. So he had the idea to perform at high schools at lunch, and bring the concert to teens instead of trying to find a place to bring teens to the band. About five years ago Kevin and I got serious about creating something that gave back, while also offering something fun and entertaining for teens. The HSN Tour officially kicked off in Sept. 2012 in Southern California. It recently celebrated its 200th show this spring and has toured coast to coast for the past five years.

Please give us some insight on how High School Nation helps bring music to high schools?

HSN is a program that is 100% free to schools, and always will be. Schools have never paid a cent for anything HSN offers. Supporting the programs on campus was of major importance when launching HSN. So we’ve worked very hard to partner with companies that support us by donating equipment that is then broken up evenly and distributed to the schools we visit each year. This year, we are thrilled to announce that all 60 schools we will visit are receiving a full recording and production studio donated and installed on their campus!

What are your thoughts on high school music programs in the present?

There are some great ones, but mostly they’re seeing their funding cut. We know that teens will willingly spend more time on campus if they are excited to be there. You have to engage teens if you expect them to listen, and invest their time. So mixing in a music or theater or art class between math, science, and English is a great way to keep their attention while keeping their energy up!

How do you interact with traditional high school music programs?

We bring in the most interactive music appreciation event that exists in the US today. We teach students who have never sat behind a drum kit or picked up a guitar, how to play an instrument. Our goal is to show them how quickly you can start making music. We want them to be encouraged to continue learning, whether it is an instrument or recording music, or singing. Just get involved. We allow students to interview and learn from artists who are already successful in the industry, so they can hear firsthand advice from people in a position these teens want to be in.

What most commonly do you hear from the kids after High School Nation has visited?

Our favorite comment and the one most commonly heard is “this was my favorite day of my high school career”. That makes all the long drives, early mornings, and time away from family worth it! To know we’re impacting teens in a way they won’t soon forget is more than we could have asked for when we started HSN.

How can people reading this blog get involved and help out?

Many ways. First off, get involved in your own backyard. Look for ways to support your local public school music programs wherever you live. If you want to get involved specifically with HSN, you can always come out to local events or even reach out about being on our touring crew. You can donate money to support the program. You can help share our mission through social media. You can reach out to your local schools and ask them to request a visit from HSN. Get creative! We’re here to help those who want it. They just have to know we are an option. We don’t spend any money promoting ourselves. Everything is word of mouth!

Below are photos from a recent High School Nation Tour. Could you tell us about the tour and how this encourages kids to pursue music?

We bring the industry to them, for a day, on their campus in a setting the teens are comfortable in. When they feel comfortable and confident they are much more likely to absorb what we’re offering. Most of these kids are seeing their first live concert ever. That is a moment you don’t ever forget. We also expose them to hundreds of careers in the arts, careers they had no idea exist. Most kids see singers and musicians and assume that is the whole industry. But there are tour managers, lighting technicians, sound engineers, brand ambassadors, crew, drivers, etc. etc…The list literally goes on forever. They don’t realize that until you show them. Then they start to believe that even if they don’t have musical ability, they could still actually get involved in the industry and travel the world working in music. It’s an important realization, especially at a young age. We see students light up when they realize they could be mixing the live sound or working alongside the artist, and experience all of the great moments the act does.

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