New Taylor Swift album features Toronto music students
Singer Taylor Swift performs on ABC's "Good Morning America" at Rumsey Playfield/SummerStage in Central Park on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
TORONTO -- It's nice to have a friend in Taylor Swift.
The pop star's latest album includes material performed by students at Toronto's Regent Park School of Music, with proceeds from licensing and royalty fees going to support musical education for children in high-priority neighbourhoods.
The kids' voices and instrumentation appear on Swift's song, "It's Nice to Have a Friend," from her new album "Lover." The material was taken from a student composition called "Summer in the South," which appears on their album, "Parkscapes."
The track made it into Swift's hands thanks to its well-connected producer -- the Grammy award-winning Frank Dukes, who spent three days working with the students earlier this year to create 11 songs.
Since finding out on Friday that Swift used one of their compositions on her album, the school has been buzzing with excitement.
"Seeing a project like this spark the imaginations of a thousand kids is really exciting and changes the game for our kids, in terms of what we're doing with music and connecting community, and evening the playing field for some of the real challenges our kids have," said Richard Marsella, executive director of the school, in Toronto on Monday.
Marsella said the school offers highly subsidized music lessons for as low as $1 per session. Proceeds from the "Parkscapes" sample and album sales, as well as awareness raised from the Swift connection, will help expand their services to students, he added.
"We're hoping (this) will set a bar, and an inspiration, for others to support kids in community music education through Regent Park School of Music."
The students used many instruments including a harp, steel pan and a xylophone to compose the track. They played the soft, aquatic tune at a media event, where the young musicians sang, tapped on the steel pan and shook a maraca in harmony.
The school only shared the students' first names to protect their privacy.
Nikita, 17, who played the steel pan on the track, said she hopes other artists will sample their songs so the school can get more funding.
"There's no other day better than this... after all of this hard work and effort that we put through, it's nice to have someone else take appreciation to it, and say (we) did a good job," she said.
Nikita said she wants to be a music teacher, as a way to give back to the community. To her, that's what Swift's song is all about: bringing people together.
"When I think of the title, 'It's Nice to Have a Friend', I'm thinking of community getting together, working together to share their ideas and create a good bond between one another," she said.
Selam, 12, played the guitar on the track, and said she's learned a lot from the project that will help her produce the songs she's working on.
"I learned that a lot of work has to go into a song, making it sound proper and ready to be heard by other people," she said.
In a statement, Toronto-bred Dukes, born Adam Feeney, describes the student album as a collection of "sparse, melancholic compositions."
The producer, whose more famous collaborators include The Weeknd, Post Malone, Camila Cabello, and Kendrick Lamar, was introduced to the students through Rana Chatterjee, an associate creative director at BBDO Toronto.
Chatterjee said he was "moved" by the work the school does for their students and wanted to help.
Dukes will be donating 80 per cent of what he makes on royalties of the project to Regent Park School of Music, according to Chatterjee.
"The person making donations to Parkscapes is actually Frank Dukes... He's written all of these compositions, the kids have played all of the music on the composition, when that composition or that sample gets licensed, Franks Dukes is essentially donating his portion of what he would've gotten to the Regent Park School of Music," he said.