Grammy winning songwriter helps BCLUW Middle School students write Veterans Day song
UNION — For the past 19 years Veterans Day has always been special at BCLUW Middle School in Union with a student-led program to honor veterans.
However, this year’s 20th anniversary edition of the observance will have special music written by Dr. Monte Selby of Maine. He was brought to the school through an Art Project Grant which allowed him to work with the students and local veterans to write two new songs.
Funding for the Art Project Grant program is made possible by an annual appropriation from the Iowa Legislature to the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
Selby met with the students on Oct.24 to learn about their programs in the past. He presented an opening assembly, then met with students in each grade to gain and write down ideas for the song. The song was debuted in an assembly at 3 p.m.
“I had two careers at the same time — teaching, principal and professor, while having a record deal with an independent producer in Nashville,” Selby said. “There are so many similarities between songwriting and what kids are working on — it is just a great parallel — because almost every kid listens to music. So song writing turns into team building thing with a common cause.”
As they were planning for the 20th anniversary the student committee knew that they wanted something special. Retired teachers Les and Theresa Penick knew Selby from his speaking appearances at educational conferences and started the ball rolling. They in turn talked to special education aide Darci Steckelberg and the grant was applied for and received.
“The sixth grade today were wide open with ideas — with a mindset of ‘What do we want to say that hasn’t been said already,'” Selby said. “The seventh and eighth grade I compare to professionals who have many doubts about what the song will be like after it is written. The fifth and sixth grade students are at an amazing age to work with in songwriting. They are ready to change the world and haven’t thought too much about the restrictions that keep one from doing that.”
He gave the example of the BCLUW fifth grade listening to a song that he wrote with a girl in New York, and then four hours later being approached by two boys named Carver and Patrick. The boys asked if the chorus of that song could be made into the bridge of a new song he was writing. They wanted to know if words could be changed from brother, sister and neighbor to soldier.
On Nov. 9, Selby will listen to several of the local veteran’s stories and put those thoughts into another song which he will sing during his keynote speech on Nov. 11 at the BCLUW program. The entire middle school will perform their song with Selby during the program as well.
One of the student committee members Lindsay Beeghly said,” I think it is really cool that our program is student-led and that the students, band and choir performs. We get good help form the teachers.”
Bodie Butler, who has been on the Veteran’s Day committee for three years, said this year they will be making T-shirts with the 20th anniversary logo. He added that many veterans have been invited to attend the program to be honored.
Regan Crawford said many of the same activities will be kept for the program, including the reading of some of the veteran related poems written by the seventh and eighth grade English students of Jodi DeBoer. Crawford said the seventh grade picked the style of music for the song, and said this year’s theme is “Just One Day — all it takes to change things.
“We really want the veterans and the public to feel welcome to attend the program,” Les Penick said. “It is going to be very special. Don’t forget the tissues.”