Making music at Mt. Hope High


High school has certainly changed in the 10 years since Chris Lambert graduated from Mt. Hope High School.

Classes are more hands-on, technology has advanced and course offerings are more broad.

Especially in the realm of music, Mr. Lambert's specialty. Now, as a teacher in that field at Mt. Hope, Mr. Lambert does more than digress music theory, or strum a guitar.

These days, he's educating students about soundtracks, scores and sound effects, all while having them create their own with a program called Mixcraft by Acoustica. Students learn the program in the Digital Recording Class, now in its fifth year.

"It would have been great to have this while I was in high school," said Mr. Lambert. "It opens a lot of opportunities for kids who don't actually play instruments."

The class allows students who can't play instruments but who have a keen ear for sound, to create their own musical scenarios with pre-mixed sounds.

Two of Mr. Lambert's students can actually create their own chords using a full-sized piano. The "source" can be altered in the program, from a piano to a drum set, guitar, or any other instrument.

"I definitely want to make a career out of this," said Tom Cabral, a senior at the school.

Tom enrolled in the introductory digital recording class year and loved it. This year, he signed up for the advanced class.

"I probably wouldn't have thought about doing this if I didn't take this class," said Tom, who hopes to venture into video game production in college.

The students are currently working on putting together a soundtrack about their life. Mr. Lambert has asked they choose 12 events to be represented musically, in about three minutes.

Senior Dylan Simas started his soundtrack with his birth, and ended with the death of his grandmother. His soundtrack begins with a happy melody, and will likely end with a more melodramatic tune, he said.

"I really like music, and this has given me the opportunity to see if I'm any good at it, which I think I am," said Dylan, who also hopes to study music in college.

Other projects Mr. Lambert has assigned include adding audio to a video clip from Finding Nemo, or Gladiator. Mr. Lambert provides the students with an inaudible video clip and directs them to add their own musical interpretation to the scenes.

"How each student perceives the action, and the type of sound or music chosen, alters the action in the scene, even slightly," he said.

Mt. Hope is one of a handful of high schools in Rhode Island that offers a course like the Digital Recording Class, said Mr. Lambert.

"It's a lot more hands on than traditional music classes," he said. "Here, students can work with music they gravitate toward. If a student likes hip-hop, they're able to explore that."


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.