Hartland students prepare for Motown music-and-film event by working at historic Detroit recording studio

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Kids in the studio
Students from Hartland Farms Intermediate School gather inside the legendary United Sound Systems recording studio in Detroit.

Hartland Farms Intermediate School’s sixth-grade general music students are presenting an ambitious Motown concert-and-film festival at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 6, at Hartland High School. The students will be accompanied by some of the best musicians in Michigan — including members of The Social Bandits, Big Will and 360 Degrees, and Soul Shake.

The Motown celebration is the culmination of an ambitious, immersive delve into the heart of the Motor City’s history and music scene led by Hartland music teacher Daryl Bean.

Part of the students’ prep for the event included recording at the legendary United Sound Systems Recording Studio on Detroit’s Second Avenue. Described as the “older, less recognized brother of Motown Records,” United Sound Systems is revered by musicians as a place where they could independently record their songs and have them pressed onto vinyl in the same building.

Founded in the early 1930s, United Sound Systems was Detroit’s first major recording studio. It helped birth a wide variety of music, from garage rock to gospel and literally everything in between. Artists — from Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, to Bob Seger and the MC5, to Aretha Franklin and George Clinton — found inspiration at United Sounds, as did Marvin Gaye with his classic anti-war song, “What’s Going On.”

To prepare for their June 6 concert, the 190 students also spent a day working on rap lyrics with Detroit rapper Magnanamous; they learned to play guitar and violin; and they got familiar with a handful of classic Motown songs, which they will be performing.

“Every kid in my school now knows ‘Sir Duke,’” said Bean of the Stevie Wonder classic.

In addition to musical performances, the Motown concert-and-film festival will include eight films. The event is free, but a suggested donation of $3 per person will be gladly accepted.

“I’m so proud to help put on this celebration of Detroit’s musical history, with some of the best musicians performing today and the young voices from Hartland Farms intermediate School,” Bean said. “It’s going to be a great show!”

For more information, email darylbean@hartlandschools.us.

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LEAD PHOTO CUTLINE: Students from Hartland Farms Intermediate School learn about Detroit’s fabled United Sound Systems from studio employee Maurice “Piranhahead” Herd.

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