‘With a Little Help From My Friends” Creating Performing Arts’ Faculty Video

OK, here’s a link to an inspiring music video created by the performing arts faculty of the Bedford Public Schools. Check it out – and then read about how it came to be.

The video was released on social media on Thursday, and the initial reviews were enthusiastic.

Lane School music teacher Natan Wythe, who assembled the audio, summed it up: “Our department is just incredibly skilled – all outstanding teachers.”

Since the schools suddenly shut down two months ago, the eight music teachers have been communicating via group text messaging thread and regular Zoom videoconferencing.

About a month ago, Wythe said, either Department Chair Nicole O’Toole or Katrina Faulstich, high school chorus and theater director, mused, “Wouldn’t it be great if we put together some sort of virtual musical idea.”

Wythe, who has a Berklee College of Music degree in music production and engineering, volunteered to put the sound together – all they needed was the right song. They settled on a Beatles classic that’s more than 50 years old, with a relevant message: “With a Little Help from My Friends.”

“We thought the message would be important to kids who may be feeling lonely,” Wythe said. “And mainly we just wanted them to see our faces.”

Wythe said the teachers decided to retain the original song format. He recorded a digital accompaniment with guitar, keyboard, and bass and sent it around as a foundation, calling for each teacher to “sing what feels good to you and send it to me. They’re all such good musicians. Now they could put on headphones, listen to the accompaniment and sing their parts, and it would mall be in time and on key.:

As each of the teachers sent in individual videos – Band Director Jim Felker was first – he mixed it into the recording and shared with the rest of the group.

Faulstich crafted a few new lyrics from the Lennon and McCartney original. “You may have noticed a few ‘modified’ parts from the original version, including ‘I eat pie with a little help from my friends’ and ‘Grow cacti with a little help from my friends,’ which Katrina sent out to us before we all started to record,” Wythe noted.

Wythe said it took about two weeks to finish the audio, and then he sent the finished product to Faulstich to assemble the video. “She actually downloaded and learned an entirely new video editing software,” Wythe said.

The video that she crafted in a couple of days was actually from individual footage supplied by the singers after their recordings. “We filmed the videos after everyone had a sense of what they would be singing,” he explained; the teachers were lip-synching. The wide-ranging backgrounds behind each participant are part of the charm.

The musicians were: O’Toole on vocals and flute and piccolo (parts that Wythe and O’Toole composed, respectively; Davis School music teacher Alison Hannah on vocals, marimba, sleigh bells, triangle, wind chimes, tambourine, and glockenspiel; strings teacher Brianna Creamer on viola and vocals; JGMS music teacher and musical theater director Amy Budka on vocals; Faulstich on vocals and keyboard;  Felker on vocals and drums; guitar teacher Evan Grunwald on guitar and bass; and Wythe playing acoustic guitar, keyboard and singing.

Wythe, in his fourth year at Lane, where he teaches general music and directs the chorus, remarked that “seeing the students’ response is very impactful.” Soon after the posting, “We already had a couple of families reach out to let us know their kids really were moved by the video. It’s making the rounds and it’s doing good things.”

“When we see how much it means to these kids, we know how much they need it.  We know everybody needs a little help from their friends right now.”

Errata: Corrected on May 16, 2020, include JGMS general music teacher and musical theater director Amy Budka and adjust the number of teachers in the department from seven to eight.

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