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Students Shine As Blair Recognized With Grammy Grant

Receiving Grammy Grant The evening of Oct. 17 included a celebration for Blair’s instrumental music program at the GRAMMY Museum in L.A.  Blair students presented an original piece of music composed by Sarah Addison ‘2019, and the Blair musicians also performed together with students from the three other Los Angeles area high schools who also received GRAMMY Signature Schools grants.

The GRAMMY Museum Signature Schools grants in Los Angeles are made possible through the generous support of The Chuck Lorre Family Foundation. Created in 1998, the GRAMMY Museum Signature Schools program is a GRAMMY In The Schools® initiative that recognizes U.S. public schools that make an outstanding commitment to music education during an academic school year.

With the help of the GRAMMY Museum Signature Schools grant, our instrumental music instructor Mr. Birnbryer-Lao is creating a Music Technology Lab at Blair. The ensemble performing at the GRAMMY Museum showcased skills and tools already being used by Blair students. Sarah Addison wrote the lyrics, music and arrangement for her ballad, titled Stay. She performed on violin, with Gwyneth Cole ‘2020 on vocals, Richard Derrick ’19 and Kylan Dennis ‘19 on MIDI keyboards connected to a laptop for string and piano accompaniment, and Adrian Padron ‘19 on drum synthesizer. For the joint schools performance, our versatile musicians included Sarah Addison on violin, Kylan Dennis on saxophone, and Adrian Padron with a trumpet solo, joined by Sebastian Hernandez ‘2022 on trumpet.

Students perform The Grammy grant provides Blair with up to $7,500 each year for three years. This year Blair has used these grant funds to purchase MIDI keyboards and two MacBooks, as well as licenses for Soundtrap music composition software. Music class students have used their accounts to create original music, record themselves playing their instruments, collaborate on projects and create “remixes.”

The application process for the Grammy grant was extensive. Mr. Birnbryer-Lao submitted an eight minute video of a student rehearsal with himself directing and a short biographical video about the program, and he wrote a history of the program and a proposal for the music technology lab he wanted to build.

When the remodeled Blair main “A” Building reopens in February, the transformed band room will include a large L-shaped Music Technology Lab of workstations on the side and back of the musician seating area. The workstations will have MIDI keyboards connected to iMacs, as well as audio interfaces for guitars, microphones and more.

Student performers The Blair family is thrilled to finally be giving Mr. Birnbryer-Lao a quality teaching space, and excited at his big vision for the space and for our students. His entire music program, serving almost 250 students, currently is limited to one cramped bungalow. Many people don’t know that even this bungalow is in fact a step up from his first space in the Blair East (Allendale) Cafetorium--and a closet. And even though the band room being remodeled was previously used as a choir and drama room, and had a dance floor for Ovations musical theatre rehearsals, it lacked even air conditioning.

When “Mr. B” arrived at Blair in Dec. 2008, Blair had about 40 students in a drum class and beginning band. Under his leadership the music program has expanded to now include beginning, intermediate and advanced band; beginning, intermediate and advanced orchestra, two levels of jazz band and a Drumline. This year “Mr. B” is also teaching IB Music SL (Standard Level), offered to 11th and 12th graders as part of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at Blair. Ms. Margaret Asato joined Blair this year as orchestra instructor.

Thank you to our wonderful students and Mr. Birnbryer-Lao! We are Viking Proud!

Mr. B Video of the performance has been shared on Facebook at "Blair High and Middle School--An IB World School" and will also be posted on the website shortly. You can also share in growing the Music Tech Lab and music programs at Blair by supporting instrumental music fundraisers and attending concerts. Blair will perform in a joint concert with Azusa Pacific University on Nov. 9!