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Student and principal unite for rap remix

T-R PHOTOS BY TREVOR BABCOCK — Senior Elijah Thiessen and Associate Principal William Terry join forces to create a remixed version of the MHS school hymn.

A Marshalltown High School student and principal have teamed up to create a song celebrating the end of a difficult year in education.

MHS senior Elijah Thiessen first heard Associate Principal William Terry rap at the beginning of the school year, when Terry released a video rapping to students about the importance of social distancing and masks.

Incidentally last December, Thiessen recorded his own re-harmonized version of the MHS school hymn “MHS of Thee,” a song Thiessen has been singing for years throughout his time in the school choir.

“I got talking with my dad and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we collaborated with Principal Terry and he added a rap section,'” Thiessen said.

After sitting on the idea for a while, Thiessen eventually emailed Terry about the concept in March.

T-R PHOTO BY TREVOR BABCOCK As a way to cap off the year, Senior Elijah Thiessen asked Associate Principal William Terry to rap on his re-harmonized version of “MHS of Thee.”

Terry said at first he took the proposal lightly.

“I took it kind of with a grain of salt, just because I didn’t realize how committed and where his talent level was,” Terry said. “I had him come to the office and he played me a little bit of it. Just his whole approach, I was really impressed with his presentation of it. I knew he had put a lot of thought into his idea, it wasn’t just a spur of the moment. I could tell he was intentional about it.”

After being impressed with Thiessen’s work, Terry took his time figuring out how he wanted to sound on the track.

“Quite naturally being an emcee I just wanted to flow on it, just take it and rip some bars up,” Terry said. “But the beat wasn’t really conducive for that. The beat had its own character. So I took a step back and really listened.”

Both said the collaboration process was smooth and organic, despite emailing their ideas back and forth instead of working on the song in person. The two openly took suggestions from each other and even learned from each other.

Rapping for 30 years, Terry said he still was a novice to the production side of making music. Thiessen however, has been making music on the computer since age 12 and plans to study music production after high school.

“Doing those things at his age when I was his age, was unimaginable,” Terry said. “Just the process itself was mind blowing for me.”

Terry said the song is really a bridge between the traditional school hymn meeting the year 2021.

First hearing the hymn, Thiessen said he initially liked the song but thought the lyrics were admittedly cheesy.

“The lyrics are exactly what you would expect for a school anthem,” Thiessen said.

But after hearing the new version combined with Terry’s verses, Theissen said the song took on a whole new meaning.

He said the song is meant to be an ode to a less than perfect year and a gift to graduating students. Thiessen mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic and political tensions as the ills of the past year.

“There have been many other memories made before this year and memories that were made during this year that are good, and we can move forward stronger from this experience,” Thiessen said. “This year is not the year that ends you, it’s the year that kicks you forward.”

As the self-proclaimed hip-hop principal, Terry was honored to use his musical abilities to build a rapport with another student.

“This is going to be a memory he’s going to take with him for the rest of his life,” Terry said.

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Contact Trevor Babcock at 641-753-6611 or tbabcock@timesrepublican.com.

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