Unlike most 17-year-olds, Kaylee George spent a good part of her childhood listening to 1960s Beatles music.
So it's no surprise that the Baldwin High School senior is excited about today's campus visit by the nonprofit John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, a state-of-the-art mobile recording and production studio.
"I'm a huge Beatles fan," said Kaylee, a drum major in the school's marching band. "When I was younger, my dad [Raymond W. George] used to make me CDs of Beatles songs off the computer, so I kind of grew up with their music. Since the eighth grade I've read, like, three or four biographies of John Lennon."
The visit to the Whitehall campus is part of a daylong program aimed at promoting the importance of music and arts education in public schools. The high school is hosting the event in partnership with the Lennon Bus, the nonprofit National Association of Music Merchants Foundation and the Los Angeles-based company High School Nation.
Assistant principal Janeen Peretin said the collaboration is part of Baldwin-Whitehall School District's commitment to expanding music and arts opportunities for students.
"Music is a natural part of their lives. It's rare that we see a student not walking around, tuned into some sort of music, having at least one earbud in. We'd be doing them a disservice to not tap into that interest and passion," she said.
The foundation will start the day with an invitation-only SupportMusic Community Forum in the auditorium, to be live-streamed on www.nammfoundation.org. It includes an 8:30 a.m. breakfast and performance by the high school marching band. A roundtable discussion among educators and community and business leaders will follow. Topics will focus on advantages and funding strategies for music and arts education.
An interactive Music and Arts Appreciation Assembly, sponsored by High School Nation, will follow from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. in the central parking lot. The high school will operate on an altered schedule so all students can attend, Ms. Peretin said.
High School Nation, which serves as a corporate liaison between teen artists and potential arts careers, offers assemblies to provide students with opportunities to express themselves through the arts, while learning firsthand from established artists, company founder Jimmy Cantillon said.
Baldwin was chosen as one of 20 stops on the assembly's 2013 fall tour after meeting criteria in population size, program content, financial need and other areas.
All of the day's events are free to the school. In fact, High School Nation, with its industry partners, will donate a $10,000 package of funds, instruments and art supplies to the school's music and arts program, Mr. Cantillon said. Funds will come in the form of credit at a local Guitar Center retail store so the school can choose equipment, he said.
A group of student ambassadors will serve as "honorary crew" to assist with assembly setup, Ms. Peretin said.
The festival-style program will have interactive booths and zones for activities ranging from canvas painting to video games. In a media zone, students from journalism, video production and other media classes will participate in a press conference and interview the tour's artists to create video bulletin segments, school newspaper features and yearbook pages, Ms. Peretin said.
Highlighting the festival will be performances by Atlantic Records newcomers Trevor Jackson and Justine Skye, and the pop-rock band Stamps. Prizes, including a Gibson guitar and a starter disc jockey kit from Pioneer, will be awarded.
Students also will explore guitars and amps in a Gibson tour bus, visiting for the day.
But it's the Lennon Bus that's been getting the most buzz. It hasn't been in Pittsburgh since 2007.
Since 2001, the 90-foot-long bus has provided students with hands-on access to the latest audio and video technology, gear and products to create music and produce videos.
Students enrolled in music, art, video production, theater arts, journalism and video production classes will join Lennon Bus crew members from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., for hands-on learning, Ms. Peretin said. They'll be able to write, perform, record and produce original songs, produce and shoot music videos and documentaries, and complete a broadcast-quality video product -- all in one day, with the assistance of on-board engineers, she said. Some students will help the bus crew with the morning's forum webcast, she said.
The bus interior is divided into three studio environments that can be opened to create one large studio when needed, according to its website, http://www.lennonbus.org.
The bus is sponsored by a number of media companies, with the consent of Yoko Ono Lennon. The decor includes photos and other items connecting the bus to Lennon's legacy as a musician and as a peace activist.
Greg Steele, the high school's director of instrumental music, said the day's events and opportunities "sound almost too good to be true."
He said his hope is that students who are already involved in music will become even more excited about it, and students who don't have music in their lives will be inspired to become involved.
Kathy Samudovsky, freelance writer: email@example.com.