Reporting Tracy Perlman
ANOKA, Minn. (WCCO) — It’s been nearly five decades since Beatle-mania took over the world. Now the Beatles are back in a big way. This time, they’re getting a Minnesota twist and indirectly helping classrooms while music lovers rediscover their favorite songs.
The band classes at Anoka Middle School for the Arts needed help — some of their instruments didn’t have the right pieces to work. Like many schools losing funding for music and arts programs, it turned to grants.
One of the many grants available to schools is the Minnesota Beatle Project grant. Mark Gehring is its founder.
“The Beatles are the common denominator for the artists on the album,” Gehring said. “We want to ensure the next generation of Minnesota musicians and artists have the opportunities to become creative, successful people.”
Dozens of artists, with ties to Minnesota, have come together for the album, now in its third volume. It’s a collaborative effort where music-lovers can enjoy re-imagined hits from the Beatles’ vast catalogue.
“It’s really thrilling, too,” Humans Win! Recording producer Lance Conrad said about working with artists. “You get to interpret the parts and add 60 years to them.”
It’s not just about the tunes — the album actually is a fundraiser. Thirty schools have received grants through the Minnesota Beatle Project. More than 15,000 students benefited from the first two albums.
“I know those students need as much support as they can get from people like us,” Conrad said.
Sabrina Olson’s band class at Anoka Middle School for the Arts appreciates the help.
“We probably put into commission 18 to 20 instruments just as a direct result of receiving the grant money,” Olson said.
The school fixed cello strings and bought new mouthpieces for tubas and horns. Those alone can cost $80 each.
“We had instruments, but we didn’t have the means to make them really functional for student use,” Olson said.
With their instruments now playable, the band got an unexpected invitation to be a part of the next album.
“Of course right away I was very excited. Then following that I thought, how will we do it?” Olson eventually turned to her students who picked “A Hard Days Night.”
“It was really tough,” Spencer Olson said. “The song was written for us so no one had ever played it before.”
The arrangement was composed to challenge and showcase the student’s abilities.
“It was tricky. There was a specific part that took the whole band a while to take,” Madelyn Anderla said.
“A lot of the artists started playing in the school band or orchestra,” Gehring said.
Like a record goes ’round, the Minnesota Beatle Project plays to the life cycle of a musician. So it’s fitting an album designed to help students, also includes students, who will now help other students.
“It kind of gives them an overall picture of how big the music industry is and what they can do with music in their lives,” Olson said.
The Minnesota Beatle Project will be available Dec. 8 in stores and on iTunes.
For more information on the album or if you’re interested in applying for a grant, visit the Vega Productions website.