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“Chin up!” Harford Heights students record song and music video

Engaging, positive song reinforces life lessons and lifts student voice

Fourth-grade student Aeron opens the song over a canvas of pianos: “Chin up! I’m a winner.” Soon, the catchy beat drops and her classmates join in, proudly belting out the chorus;

Confident I keep my chin up 
(Aye, I’m a winner)  
Perseverance when times get tough
(That’s a pillar)
We won’t settle it ain’t enough
(Aye, young go-getter) 
If I’m fallin’ then I get up
(Aye, y’all remember)

At Harford Heights Elementary School, students in 2nd through 5th grade aren’t only building skills in classrooms; they’re dropping knowledge and rhymes on the mic, in the studio, and on camera — and learning important lessons in the process.

As part of their weekly music class with teacher Marcia Sellers, every Harford Heights 2nd-5th grade collaborated with musician and entrepreneur Brother Imani to learn, perform and record an original song called “Chin Up.” The one-month experience culminated with the taping of an amazing music video. Check it out:

“It is so powerful to connect and reach students’ hearts and minds through a platform they know and love: rap music,” remarked Sellers. “I saw normally quiet students coming out of their shells, and all students eager to learn and perform. Their passion is contagious!”

Just take it from the students themselves! Their reflections on learning, performing and recording “Chin Up” include:
- “I feel like I can achieve despite people’s doubts.” - Third grader Riley 
- “It makes me feel like I can do anything” - Second grader Pha’eva
- “It made me feel accepted and believe in myself. I feel better than I ever have before.” - Third grader Na’'Shay
- “Don't let the past affect the future in a negative way. Life is great.” - Third grader Mikaela

After studying the history of rap music, the students were introduced to digital arts, songwriting, recording, and camera work. And they reinforced their understanding of rhythm, beats, and sound quality. Next, Sellers went over lyrics. 

“It was amazing how fast these young ones learned the entire song! They would call me and show off their skills on the weekend. Their joy was so palpable.” 

To record the song and video, students took a trip (after lots of rehearsing!) to Stages Music Arts in Cockeyvilles. As the video shows, the recording session was an absolute blast. And with thousands of YouTube plays of the video and invitations to perform the song at City Schools’ District Office, Principal’s Institute, and at the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum are any indication, viewers agree! 

Sellers, Brother Imani and students had such a great experience that they are now in the process of creating another music video! This original song, called “Countin’ on Me” was recorded in late June. The school year may be over, but these students enjoyed it so much that they are eager to continue the project during summer break. Check out the behind the scenes look at the process.

Said Sellers, “These students want to record, and they want to learn. I can’t wait to get back into the studio with them!” 

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