The inside of the John Lennon Educational Bus is filled to capacity. The air conditioner is pumping a cool breeze, but the lights and equipment and bodies packed together raise the temperature until it’s competing with the Texas heat outside.
The lights and cameras are all pointed at a Berkner High School student who repeatedly says she doesn’t know what to do with her hands while singing. Her fellow students and the technicians on the bus give suggestions that she shakes her head at. Time is running short for the students who need to be released, so the next take has to be the last. This is an average day for the engineers on the John Lennon Educational Bus.
The bus is a touring mobile recording studio filled with the latest recording and editing equipment. The bus tours across the U.S. and Canada, reaching 150 to 200 schools a year, to host workshops for students wanting to learn more about the hard work that goes into making professional music. Everything inside the Lennon Bus, from the editing software to the green screen curtains used in music videos, is donated by sponsors to assist in the nonprofit's mission.
From the moment the Lennon Bus parks behind Berkner High School in Richardson, the three engineers on board start working with the students selected. In the next six to eight hours, they'll lead the teenagers through the process of writing, rehearsing, performing and recording a song that is turned into a music video.
The focus is to teach students both the artistic and technical aspects of creating a song. Aspiring musicians see methods to create music while AV students learn the intricacies of lighting and filming the artists.
After the Berkner students are finished for the day, the Lennon Bus engineers finish editing the footage gathered during the session into a music video for the organization's YouTube channel. After the video is approved, the students and faculty at Berkner will receive a link to the music video they helped create — all within two weeks.
Steven Meloney, one of the engineers on the Lennon Bus, says the team also works with younger students.
“We do go as low as third grade,” he says. “The focus for that age group is to help them create a story we can put music to.”
To visit as many schools as possible, the three engineers for the Lennon Bus tour nine months out of the year. The schedule is a packed one with little rest. As they take off from Berkner, they'll edit music videos on the way to the next group of students. Keeping up with the many projects requires them to make their workplace also their home.
“After 6 p.m., this does become our bedroom," Meloney says. "We literally live on board, the three of us engineers, so we travel around the country with our driver, Chris. We’re out until they send us home."