Baldwin High School parking lot transformed into music festival

| Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Loud cheers echoed across the parking lot as Trevor Jackson took the stage.

Students from Baldwin High School crowded around, dancing and singing along to the tunes of their new favorite artist.

“It's amazing,” said Baldwin junior Kayla Baldinger, 17, a hip-hop fanatic, who attended her first live concert in the back parking lot of her own school last week. “I love dancing. It's the best.”

The Baldwin High School parking lot was transformed into a music and arts festival for two hours on Oct. 3 as the High School Nation Tour visited the school, with a concert-like atmosphere, a “Music Zone,” with guitar and drum stations that allowed students to play their own tunes, and the John Lennon Education Tour Bus, where students had the opportunity to view a working recording studio on wheels.

“It's sweet,” said Baldwin junior Vinnie Sabatini, 16, as he played the drums for his friends. “It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, really, especially going on the tour bus.”

Jimmy Cantillon, founder of Los Angeles-based High School Nation, began bringing musical acts into schools in southern California, where he grew up, about 10 years ago, he said.

It started as a lunch-time activity, where performers or surprise guests would visit schools and encourage student participation in the arts. The Santa Barbara High School graduate said hearing about cuts to music programs in schools made him want to do more.

Last year, he launched the High School Nation Tour, now sponsored by Monster, which brings the music and art festival — complete with interactive areas — to school stadiums and parking lots across the country.

“It's just meant to inspire them and fire them up,” Cantillon said.

The program brings representatives from High School Nation back to the schools later in the year to check-on the status of the schools' art and music programs, he said. Sponsors also donate nearly $10,000 in musical equipment to the school or students during the year, Cantillon said.

Twenty high schools across the country were selected this fall for the free event.

Cantillon said he chose mostly major cities across the United States, then narrowed it down to a handful of schools in each city. From there, he contacted each school and made the decision based on the administrators' enthusiasm in their responses.

New Baldwin High School Principal Walter Graves said he was excited that his school, with nearly 1,500 students, was selected.

“We're pretty lucky,” he said.

Assistant Principal Janeen Peretin said the event is beneficial to students.

“For those that already have the passion for the arts and music, it's really just showing that we honor that just as much as anything else,” Peretin said. “And for the regular, average student who maybe doesn't have a special interest (in music). They always have their ear buds in and they're listening to music. This is to show them that there are viable opportunities for them with music.”

Jonathan Wicks, 17, a senior and member of the marching band, was excited to see a day all about what he loves.

“There should be more appreciation for the organizations that truly do a lot of work,” he said. “Without music, life would be flat.”

Members of the Baldwin High School Marching Band said they were excited their classmates, who normally don't spend their day in the music rooms, got to have the chance to play the drums and guitars and see what classes are like.

“It's cool that they get to experience what we do every day,” said senior Cara Koenig, 17, who plays the clarinet in the marching band.

Teachers, too, enjoyed watching the students try the instruments and sing along to the melodies.

“This is phenomenal,” Baldwin High School director of bands Greg Steele said. “I'm really hopeful that this will put music on more kids' radars.”

Still, for some, the best part of the day were the performing artists trying to get more exposure with high school youths.

“He's hot,” said Baldwin sophomore Kylia Jones, 15, as she danced along to Trevor Jackson's performance. “They're really good. It's awesome.”

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or

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