February 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Music Education, via an LP Appreciation Society

An LP Appreciation Society sampling (top); student connoisseurs (center); spinning a classic.

An LP Appreciation Society sampling (top);
student connoisseurs (center); spinning a classic.

It’s 3:30 p.m. at my high school library, and freshman Amanda walks in with a Beatles LP, eager to get to the turntable first. She lowers the needle on her chosen track and starts shimmying to “The Magical Mystery Tour.” So begins a typical meeting of our LP Appreciation Society, meeting every other Tuesday.

Our Society is for people with a passion for music. In a time when everything is fast and furious, showing students how to slow down and discover music is a privilege. The group has become popular. The students know I’m a hopeless music nerd. I bought my first record when I was 10—and never stopped searching through dusty bins for LP gems, spending more money than I should on music. As a school librarian, my passion has shifted from avid collector to purveyor and sojourner.

We have strict rules. First: No phones during Society time. I want us to engage, for an hour, in a totally analog, distraction-free environment. Second: No interrupting—unless it’s about the music.

I try to convey the thrill of discovery. In the ‘80s, I had long conversations with record-store clerks and pored through fanzines, and Spin, Creem, and Rolling Stone. That was my (pre-Internet) research. Imagine that!

We dig into the liner notes and discuss. Who is in the band? So you like the way this record sounds? Who is the producer or engineer? They might have worked with other bands you would also like. What about the recording studio? Through this process of talking, reading, and listening, we are researching, inquiring, and developing tastes and opinions.

The mornings after our sessions, I compile meeting liner notes with track listings and discussion recaps. I note what we discussed, listened to, and concluded. I include clips of the songs from YouTube and information about the artists, usually gathered from Wikipedia or Allmusic.com.

Want to start an LP Appreciation Society at your school? Here’s how.

• Speak to administrators and get approval.

• Promote. A colleague helped me make eye-popping posters, which we hung all over the school. Announcements promoted the club throughout the week before our first meeting.

• Make general rules—and make sure students agree to them.

• Have good equipment. I started with a portable record player, which sounded terrible. I upgraded to a Technics turntable, a Pioneer receiver, and pair of Infinity speakers. Students get why this listening experience is superior to using MP3s or earbuds.

• Get the word out to staff and faculty. You might be surprised who shows up to your meeting!

• Have a theme for every session. For example, in February, we focused on soul music in honor of Black History Month.

Geoffrey Greenberg is a librarian at Maine West High School in Des Plaines, IL.

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