KAPS Students “Way Above Average”

 In Camelot Blog

Camelot KAPS’ unique and amazing music teacher, Luke O’Brien, also known as professional hip hop artist Lukey the Bird, has begun a new project with his Philadelphia elementary school students – writing and recording their own 16 line rap videos – with the hashtag #motivationforcreation.

As an introduction to the series, “Mr. Luke” and his students produced a fantastic video called

Way Above Average.

Mr. Luke made remix videos with his students using a song that was popular at the time. But this new idea is about making original music.

“We wanted something that we could call our own, so that we’re not just taking other people’s property and remixing and repeating the same thing over and over,” he said. “I came up with this idea to highlight one student at a time and the talent that they have and that I’ve come across while teaching them. I call the series, ’16,’ because in hip hop music when a rapper does a verse the typical length is 16 lines or bars.”

Mr. Luke helps the student craft a verse (16 bars) and then they make a beat together and they’ll record the verse live on video. Next he syncs the audio to the video to produce a really cool final product.

Mr. Luke says this is fun, but it’s about a lot more than that.

“There are a lot of advantages to it. One, the kid gets a lot of positive attention from his peers and the staff people get to know their lyrics and in passing they’ll give them a little high five or maybe recite a couple lines from their verse. The other thing is with the ‘16’ we’re going to post them on our YouTube page and make people aware of the awesome stuff we do here.”

The school’s Program Manager, Carolyn Abele, says it’s too early to do an evaluation on the learning and behavioral effects but she can already see early signs of the benefits kids get from the music.

“We can definitely see kids who have been working with Luke that have a connection that is really important to them. It makes them feel good. It’s something they can focus on. And we can use the class as a motivator to encourage good behaviors,” she said.

O’Brien says kids are naturally creative and they don’t have as many reservations as adults.

“Kids are way more fun to create with. That’s why I love my classroom. It’s a free space where they can come in and say the weirdest possible things and we’ll turn it into a song. I like to keep it weird. And kids are good at that,” he says.

“What’s really cool about the messages is I always curve themto be about respect and being kind, still making them cool so the kids aren’t saying ‘all this is corny’ but kind of blending those two things, making it cool to be kind, which is my mission.”

As Ms. Abele puts it, “These kids don’t have a whole lot of boundaries. That’s part of their thing.”

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