School's chorus wins in Music Alive! contest

July 23, 2007

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FREDERICK, Md. - The eighth-grade chorus at Crestwood Middle School in Frederick was one of the national winners in the Music Alive! & Menudo contest sponsored by Music Alive! Magazine, an educational music magazine in the United States and Canada, and Cherry Lane Music Foundation.

The contest challenged classes across the U.S. to record their own version of "Hold Me," the 1985 song recorded by the original Menudo group. Menudo was the first Latin group to gain success around the world and record in different languages. Their most famous member, Ricky Martin, went on to sell millions of records.

Tina Vogtman is the choral director at Crestwood. Participating students were solo rappers Derrick Kyei-Baffour and Brianna Davis; beatbox performer Matt Bonilla; and choral arrangement was done by Allyn Acha, Leslie Bowen, Shana Cramption, Tabitha Davis, Gwen Filkins, Erinn Gales, Jasmine Gibson, Cassandra Harris, Felicia Kattes, Janel Mayo, Morgan Reedy, Monica Revelo, Nicole Santillo, Aroosa Shah, Connor Strain, Jessica Vaughn, Ingrid Ventura, Nicole Weedon, Mary Williams, Rochelle Young and Brooklyn Zimmerman.


The Music Alive! & Menudo contest coincided with an initiative to uncover talent for a newly formed Menudo group. MTV Tr3s, a new entertainment destination that combines Latin and American music, will air a reality-TV series featuring the new cast of Menudo later in the year.

Contestants in the Music Alive! contest were given total creative freedom regarding style, tempo, key and instrumentation for their recording of "Hold Me."

To create raps for the school's "Character Counts" week, Crestwood's eighth-grade chorus studied Music Alive!'s November 2006 article on how to create hip-hop beats and Ron Riley's recording of "Over My Head" from the accompanying classroom CD.

At first, the students felt that Menudo's "Hold Me" song was a bit sappy. A student brought up the recent "Grease" reality-TV show, and suggested that "Hold Me" might sound better if the song was divided into guys' and girls' parts, as in the "Summer Nights" song from Grease.

The students experimented with the rhythm, then added "doo be doo's" and "oh baby, baby's" to the backup parts. To keep the arrangement sounding current, Kyei-Baffour and Brianna Davis applied their writing skills to create original rap sections.

The last touch was inspired by this year's "American Idol" finalist, Blake Lewis, and his beatboxing. Bonilla contributed his beatboxing skills and the final arrangement was born.

For its prize, Crestwood Middle School will receive a new Baldwin piano, provided by Menudo Entertainment LLC and the Gibson Baldwin Music Education Foundation.

In addition, the newly formed Menudo group will pay a visit to the school in the fall to perform a song for the winning students.

Founded in 1981 by acclaimed record producer Milton Okun, Music Alive! magazine brings today's music world into the classroom, covering everything from Rachmaninoff to rap, and from bluegrass to bebop. In addition to interviews with a wide range of singers and performers, monthly articles cover world music, film music, orchestras and smaller ensembles, music-related technology, careers in music and special achievements by music students.

The magazine is available through subscription only to music teachers, home-schoolers and individual students at their homes. The magazine is advertisement-free. The accompanying Teacher's Guide contains lesson plans keyed to MENC National Standards and literacy reinforcement, and the classroom CD of recordings provides relevant musical examples.

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