The Lennon Bus - A Mobile Music Video Studio

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Photo by Chasen Marshall
The next Biggie Smalls may come out of Grady Middle School.
(By Chasen Marshall, cross-posted from Hair Balls)

A dark blue bus currently parked on the sidewalk at Discovery Green Downtown Park meets the musical editing needs of both Houston youths and the Black Eyed Peas.

Beyond being littered with sponsor labels and massive silver recreations of John Lennon's signature, the bus is a non-profit mobile recording studio.

It came through town this week and worked with students at Grady Middle School and YES! Prep to create, produce and record music videos. The bus showed up at the schools at 7 a.m., met the small group of kids at 9 a.m. and by 5 p.m. the music was written and recorded, and the video shot. All that was left was the editing, which was done by the talented group of four guys currently touring nation-wide aboard the vehicle. "The kids get to experience something that they'd likely never otherwise see or do," said Kevin Hoy, one of the in-bus residents and producers. "It helps encourage spontaneous creativity through collaboration with people they may not even know."

The bus is so legit that for a three-week period, the Black Eyed Peas rented it out in order to record its next album -- which is due out in late November -- all the while performing at venues around the country.

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Photo by Chasen Marshall
Let's play a game: find the CEO.
"It was amazing to see the rate at which those guys produced music," said Ryan Lesperance, another in-bus audio engineer. "They'd start recording early, do a show in the evening, and then come back and work until like three in the morning."

The CEO of Montblanc, which is currently the title-sponsor of the bus, was on hand to be part of the bus tours and talk about the company's involvement. This year would have marked Lennon's 70th birthday and as an honor to his legacy -- and Montblanc's involvement and support of the arts -- they recently unveiled a gorgeous (read: expensive) signature pen.

"Supporting arts is something we've been doing since the beginning of the company, which dates back to 1906," said Jan-Patrick Schmitz, the CEO of Montblanc. "It grew into supporting all sorts of arts programs, cultural initiatives and education programs. This bus is really one of the most exciting projects we've done. It gives arts education, musical education, the ability to express yourself creatively, to kids around the country."

The video below is a project the John Lennon Bus put together with the students from a performing arts school in Los Angeles.


The videos from the Houston schools should be available over the weekend on the John Lennon Bus's YouTube page.

The bus is broken into three compartments (video studio, audio studio, recording studio) and is stocked with state-of-the-art recording and editing equipment, all of which has been donated. The bus is on the road 10 months out of the year and has been going since 1998. It's staffed by a group of young, talented individuals who arrive at a school or destination and display the bus' capabilities, as well as help kids produce a music project they can be proud of.

If you're downtown now, head over to Discovery Green. The bus is out there and open to the public until 6 p.m.

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