‘Raise the Roof with a Song’
Alumnus Asher Graieg Leads his Music Students in a Song-Writing Assignment with an International Impact
Shout for joy, All the earth! As one we sing to praise the Lord!
Earlier this year a group of six year 11 and 12 Music students at Strathalbyn Christian College (Geraldton, WA) were given an assignment unlike anything they’ve ever received: write, record and sell an original composition. But not just any composition; proceeds from the song, which would ultimately become a song of praise to God, would fund the building of a new roof for the Garden of Hope Pre-Primary School in Gleno, East Timor.
And with extraordinary success, these young musicians have risen above and beyond traditional expectations to conquer the challenge! But not without the help and support of their much admired teacher, Asher Graieg.
*Artwork by Marni Walker
Asher completed a Bachelor of Music at Wesley Institute, during which he realised his passion was for sharing his gift and love of music with others by inspiring young students in their musical pursuits. He went on to finish Wesley Institute’s Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary), and has been teaching since the beginning of 2011.
Asher was inspired to write, record and sell an original composition as a fundraising effort after meeting with a friend, Elke Graham, who is working for the sponsorship, publicity and communication of the Garden of Hope Pre-Primary School. Originally a personal pursuit, while sitting down to write out lesson plans for his year 11 and 12 composition class, he considered what kind of opportunity lay at the door for his students. The project would give them a remarkable chance to “see how they can use their gifts to further the kingdom of God”, said Asher, “as well as learning the ins and outs of recording software, and getting experience working as a group towards a common goal”.
After receiving the support of his deputy principal and principal, Asher took a big leap of faith. “I wrote the assessment task and, with hands shaking with excitement, I gave it to them and we began to write,” said Asher.
In the first lesson, Asher provided the class with a simple piano motif and four chords he had developed as a starting point, along with the words of Psalm 98 for inspiration. These two building blocks eventually formed the final piece.
“The writing process was very enjoyable,” reflected Asher. “We spent most of our Friday lessons trying to arrange the different parts of the song. Last term I focused on teaching my students about structure, and how crucial it is to have all the different elements in their right places. I wanted to get them thinking about every little piece of this song and what each new element contributes to the song as a whole.”
By week 8 the class started recording, with everyone putting in long hours. “We had many inspirational moments. Our aim was to produce a professional sounding recording. However, there is beauty in imperfection and that gave the song character, making the piece feel alive and organic,” said Asher.
Lyrics proved the most difficult step in the process for the class. Originally wanting to record lyrics in week 9, by the time it came around, Asher and his students were still not completely satisfied with the content. As Asher reminisced, “We tried brainstorming but it all seemed so watery and lyrically weak. So I asked a student to pray. We then tried again, and remembered Psalm 98 that I had put on the assignment sheet. What then proceeded was one of the most fun lessons I have 'taught'. We pulled out our Bibles and proceeded to put most of Psalm 98 to music. We had the melody all written, and so it was just a matter of putting the words into that framework. The lunch bell went, and I told them they could go, but no-one left. So we ploughed on! By the end of the two periods we had rewritten what had originally taken us 9 weeks!”
For the final verse Asher’s friend from the Garden of Hope Pre-Primary School translated part of Psalm 98 into Tetun, the language of East Timor. By the following Monday it was done. The singers came in to class during their study breaks to record and put in effort above and beyond what the class usually required. Over the school holidays, Asher mixed and mastered the song, resulting in what we hear today, and put it up for sale on bandcamp and iTunes.
This group of musicians, now known as 1AMUS, is looking to raise $1000 for school’s new roof in East Timor. Any proceeds beyond that will be used to pay teachers at the school and for classroom materials.
Asher said he would like to thank Strathalbyn Christian College, “for providing a place where students can be a part of making known the Lordship of Jesus Christ, through excellence in education, to equip students for works of service.”
On behalf of Wesley Institute, we heartily congratulate Asher and 1AMUS for what they’ve accomplished! At Wesley Institute, we seek to equip our students to live godly lives in influential vocations, and are so encouraged to see our alumni carry their passion, gifts and influence into communities around Australia and the world.
To purchase the song, titled, Salmu, visit iTunes or http://amus.bandcamp.com/.
Salmu by 1AMUS, features:
Caleb Harper - Drums, Acoustic Guitar, Bv's
Kyrstie Rankine - Flute, Bv's
Lauren Jones - Vocals, Bv's
Daniel Smith - Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Bv's
Tahlia Mathieson - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Bv's
Clinton Hewitt - Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Bv's
Asher Graieg - Bass Guitar, Piano, Bv's