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High school plans media academy

by MARSHA SILLS The Advocate on January 07, 2014 11:00 AM

LAFAYETTE, La. — “You’re kickin’ it with the QBall over at Northside radio: The Viking. This next song is by D.L. Menard. ... It’s what Cajun folklorist Barry Jean Ancelet called the most played and recorded song. It sold over 500,000 copies in 1962 alone.”

Cue Menard’s “The Back Door.”

Listeners may soon have the chance to tune in to QBall — Northside High freshman Quenakian Noel.

[PHOTO: Northside High School Radio Students, from left, D'Andre Pruitt, Alexus Nelson and Marcus Mitchell work on the scripts for their radio shows recently in Lafayette, La. on Dec. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/The Baton Rouge Advocate, Bryan Tuck)]

The high school plans to launch an Internet radio station, The Viking, in the spring as it awaits a broadcast license from the Federal Communications Commission.

Meanwhile, Noel and his classmates have written and researched scripts for three-hour shows on Louisiana music that are ready for production as part of a new broadcasting class offered at Northside High.

“I hope that they’ll be able to get in the studio this spring and do their shows,” Northside High teacher Jay Redmond said.

The radio station is part of the school’s plan to create a new media academy at Northside to prepare students for careers in the media — broadcast, print journalism and film.

“This is to get us started. We want this to be a full academy to give students from across the parish this opportunity,” Redmond said.

He said Northside Principal Melinda Voorhies visited the radio program he started at Tara High School in Baton Rouge and recruited him to Lafayette.

The Lafayette Parish School Board recently approved $112,000 for startup costs for the radio station. The money will be used to pay for construction of a broadcast studio and to buy equipment and new technology to get the radio station online initially and over the airwaves later.

The school plans to set up the Internet station while awaiting an FCC license to broadcast over the air, Redmond said.

The goal is to produce an educational radio station that would operate around the clock daily featuring Louisiana music with shows produced by students.

Teachers will have some air time, too.

“We’d like teachers to have the chance to air educational programming to help students with their homework,” Redmond said.

The Northside program started in August with about 40 students who take either the broadcast writing class or a 30-minute elective class to produce the campus’ newspaper, The Viking Scroll.

As part of their broadcast class, students have done research to provide listeners interesting facts about the musicians and the songs that are part of each show, he said.

Students produced shows such as “A Black Tie Event,” which features symphonies from across Louisiana; “The Washboard,” featuring zydeco; “Fais Do-Do,” Cajun dance music; and “Urban Landscape,” Louisiana hip-hop.

“I was surprised at how much of an impact Louisiana’s music has had on today’s music,” said Noel, the Northside freshman with the QBall moniker.

For students like Malik Jean-Louis, 15, the classes offer a chance to explore his career interest.

“One day, I plan to be a radio DJ,” the Northside sophomore said.

His ambitions aren’t unlike those of his classmates.

In August, Joshua Calhoun, 17, plans to attend Southern University and major in mass communications. Calhoun is editor of The Viking Scroll, the campus newspaper.

Fellow senior, Jakeyla Chavis, 17, said she may study journalism in college next year because she’s enjoyed mining stories on campus and finding interesting angles to frame them.

“You’re also interviewing people and improving your communication skills,” Chavis said.

It also makes you stretch your comfort zone, said senior Edward Demangeaux, 18. “You’ve got to come out of your shell.”

Redmond said he’s been impressed by his students’ hard work and interest.

“These kids have a work ethic like you wouldn’t believe,” Redmond said.

“There is a broad base of talent here to populate the next generation of media.”

[PHOTO: Northside High School Radio Teacher Jay Redmond speaks with his students during class recently in Lafayette, La on Dec. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/The Baton Rouge Advocate, Bryan Tuck)]

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