IB Middle Years' music programme showcased in HBO documentary


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The International Baccalaureate (IB) celebrates the recent release of HBO’s documentary, “Stand Up & Shout: Songs from a Philly High School.” This captivating film chronicles the remarkable journey of students enrolled in the IB Middle Years Programme’s (MYP) music design and technology coursework within Philadelphia’s Hill-Freedman World Academy. The MYP music program serves as a testament to IB’s commitment to fostering student talent and creativity and empowering the voices of future generations.

The documentary follows the Music Design and Technology programme at Hill-Freedman World Academy, where instructors guide students to write, compose, produce, and perform original songs. The latest album release, “Growing Up Black, compiles 34 original student songs that explore and celebrate the music of artists and producers from diverse genres. At the heart of the programme is the MYP curriculum, which challenges students to engage with the arts and express emotions, experiences and ideas through creative schemes. The documentary vividly illustrates how the MYP curriculum encourages practical connections between their studies and the real world.  

Since 2016, Hill-Freedman World Academy has been nurturing student creativity through its innovative record label, Hill-Freedman Records (HFR). The label has successfully produced seven studio albums comprising original songs created by students and supported by key partners such as World Cafe Live. Each album is the culmination of a two-year-long music technology curriculum that is integral to the school’s MYP design courses. Ezechial Thurman, music technology teacher and founder of HFR, leads the programme, engaging all 9th and 10th grade students in the album creation process. At the same time, 11th and 12th grade students, along with returning alumni, serve as student producers. They collaborate with a team of teaching artists who mentor students in songwriting, production, recording and performance. 

Ezekiel Thurman, HFR Music Director, emphasized the impact of the program, stating, "Through our MYP design courses, our school community has created a safe space for our students to make things better in their world using their creative voices through songwriting, music production, and recording in a culturally relevant way. The HBO documentary spotlights the fact that our amazing students have something to say, they deserve to be heard, and what they have to say matters as they fulfill our program’s mission statement which is to 'make things better in our world using lyrics, music, and digital media projects."

The label gained attention when the news clip from HFR’s album “Love and Healing” captured the interest of filmmaker, Amy Schatz. With the backing of HBO and John Legend’s Get Lifted film company, Schatz crafted the documentary, "Stand Up and Shout: Songs from a Philly High School," spotlighting the music-making process during the 2021-2022 school year. 

The International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme offers a challenging framework that helps students aged 11 to 16 to grow and flourish in their education and personal development. The MYP is designed to challenge students to apply both practical and creative-thinking skills to solve problems, encourage students to explore historical and contemporary contexts, and raise students’ awareness of their responsibilities when making decisions and taking action. 

Learn more about Stand Up & Shout: Songs from a Philly High School 

Learn more about the MYP