WAKE UP EVERYBODY was created as part of Hill-Freedman World Academy's ongoing partnership with Philadelphia non-profit LiveConnections, which specializes in music education, arts accessibility and collaborative concerts. The collection of original student songs (and a cover of the 1970’s classic title song) is the culmination of a year-long project led by HFWA Music Technology teacher Ezechial Thurman and a team of LiveConnections teaching artists: noted songwriter/producer Andrew Lipke; Grammy nominee Kristal Oliver; past Kimmel Center jazz resident Luke Carlos O’Reilly and LiveConnections Founding Director David Bradley.
WAKE UP EVERYBODY takes its inspiration from the mission, songs and style of Philadelphia International Records, the influential label founded in 1971 by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff which produced the renowned “Sound of Philadelphia.” Over the course of the school year, under the direction of Thurman, together with the LiveConnections teaching artists, all of HFWA’s 10th graders and a cohort of 11th and 12th graders dug into the Philadelphia International catalogue, listening to the music of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, the O’Jays, MFSB and more. Students drew inspiration from the label’s focus on “music with a message,” while also drawing on contemporary R & B, pop and hip-hop.
“The mission of Hill-Freedman Records is to create music that brings people together to contribute to positive change in the world,” said Thurman, who came to the school in 2016 to launch the Music Technology program and record label. “The music and legacy of Philadelphia International Records are great models for our student artists. The students were really fueled by the message and power of The Sound of Philadelphia.”
With guidance from Thurman, Lipke, O’Reilly and Grammy-nominated songwriter Oliver, the students wrote lyrics, individually and in whole class collaborations. Many tracks feature original student musical composition and production, a hallmark of the Music Technology program led by Thurman. Other tracks feature LiveConnections artists and guests, as well as HFWA 10th grader Christian Harrison on drums.
The album features twenty-one original tracks, plus a cover of “Wake Up Everybody,” originally recorded by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes and covered by John Legend and The Roots in 2010. The new version features dozens of Hill-Freedman students, along with guest vocals by Superintendent Hite, who sings the line “Wake up all the teachers/time to teach a new way,” Chill Moody, Laurin Talese and the LiveConnections artists. Hill-Freedman alum Eric Wortham II added keys to the track.
The original songs follow the title’s exhortation to “wake up” to what the world, and the students, are facing today. The album moves from the personal to the global, with students singing about love and family, racism and violence, graduation and their futures and the need to come together in a divided world.
The album also features special guest appearances by William R. Hite Jr., Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, Eric Westbrook, Director of the Mayor's Office of Black Male Engagement, as well as notable Philadelphia musicians Laurin Talese (winner of the 2018 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition), rapper Chill Moody and keyboardist Eric Wortham II, a Hill-Freedman alumnus who has toured with Adele and Jill Scott.
Hill-Freedman World Academy (HFWA), a public high school in the School District of Philadelphia, will release the original album WAKE UP EVERYBODY, the third offering from the school’s Hill-Freedman Records label. The label, and the album, are part of Hill-Freedman’s IB Design/Music Technology curriculum.
- R&B & Soul