Blankets drape the walls of the recording booth, makeshift alternatives to industry-standard sound-dampeners.
The complexities of the mixing equipment initially were foreign to the students. The program used to compile the beats, vocals and instrumentation into completed tracks is free-to-use shareware.
But for the fledgling recording artists at Dubuque Senior High School, the new studio is more than just the ramshackle culmination of an extracurricular course.
For them, the booth’s cramped confines represent opportunities to express their passions, learn about business and notch life skills. And, perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, join a new, if slightly unconventional family.
“Music is kind of a way for everyone to connect. And there’s different types of music, so it creates different types of feelings,” said sophomore Elena Luna. “Basically, for me, SeeGeorgeGo is a feeling. It’s like a good feeling. It’s something you can do, and it has a lot of joy and excitement.”
Seven students — and a host of guest musicians — accompanied Dubuque chiropractor and businessman Josh Nagle on SeeGeorgeGo’s inaugural journey.
The new company, of which Nagle serves as CEO, creates crowd-funded educational opportunities for area students. It also is an employment opportunity for licensed educators, who are paid $50 per hour to oversee programming.
At the start of this semester, the participants — chosen after an application process — came together in a little-used room at the high school to pick a project. Seeing the abundance of musical talent in Senior’s hallways, the group settled on the recording studio idea.
With just $5,000 to work with, the kids were tasked with coming up with business and marketing plans before seeing the effort to fruition.
“Setting up a studio is like creating a family, I guess,” said Cameron Ackerman, a sophomore. “You have to look at every aspect, you have to plan for it, you have to execute. And if you don’t execute it right, your family falls apart.”
Joining the students this week was Sammy Brue, an Ogden, Utah-based recording artist. He jammed with the local musicians and offered tips and tricks to make the most out of the studio space.
The 17-year-old singer/songwriter said he was impressed with what the Dubuque students accomplished.
“I think it would be really, really cool in the future, like 10 years, have a recording school in every high school,” said Brue. “That would be a really cool thing. ... Kids are messed up. They don’t know what to do. They turn to drugs a lot because they don’t know how to express themselves. I know if my high school back in Ogden had a recording studio, those problems wouldn’t be as (serious). Kids would be making art and putting it out and being happy.”
Brue headlined a concert Thursday night at 7 Hills Brewing Co. to celebrate the successful effort. The event also raised money for the Dubuque Dream Center, which was chosen by the students.
The recording studio will remain a fixture at the school, according to Nagle. Students ultimately will be responsible for coming up with a schedule and managing the space.
Nagle said SeeGeorgeGo will continue to raise money from donors to expand efforts to other schools and districts. And eventually, he’d like to see the company have an impact worldwide.
“The goal is to make this a big thing,” he said. “We don’t just want to make recording studios. Their options at the beginning were a garden, a studio or a bike repair center. This is just the one that they chose.”