John Lennon Bus: Making Music With Houston Kids And The Black Eyed Peas

The dark blue bus parked on the sidewalk at Discovery Green downtown looks like something that might show up outside House of Blues on the night of a show, but it has more going on then one would think.

Beyond being littered with sponsor labels and massive silver recreations of John Lennon's signature, the bus is a non-profit mobile recording studio. It's broken into three compartments (video studio, audio studio, recording studio) and is stalked with state-of-the-art recording and editing equipment.

It came through town this week and staffers worked with students at Grady Middle School and YES! Prep to create, produce and record music videos. The bus showed up at the schools at 7 a.m., met the small group of kids at 9 a.m. and by 5 p.m. the music was written and recorded, and the video shot. All that was left was the editing, which was done by the talented group of four guys currently touring nation-wide aboard the vehicle.

"The kids get to experience something that they'd likely never otherwise see or do," said Kevin Hoy, one of the in-bus residents and producers. "It helps encourage spontaneous creativity through collaboration with people they may not even know."

The bus is so legit that for a three-week period, the Black Eyed Peas rented it out in order to record their next album -- which is due out in late November -- all the while performing at venues around the country.

"It was amazing to see the rate at which those guys produced music," said Ryan Lesperance, another in-bus audio engineer. "They'd start recording early, do a show in the evening, and then come back and work until like three in the morning."

The CEO of Montblanc, which is currently the title-sponsor of the bus, was on hand to be part of the bus tours and talk about the company's involvement. This year would have marked Lennon's 70th birthday and as a honor to his legacy -- and Montblanc's involvement and support of the arts -- they recently unveiled a gorgeous (read: expensive) signature pen. (Hair Balls will stick to its cheap plastic pens.)

"Supporting arts is something we've been doing since the beginning of the company, which dates back to 1906," said Jan-Patrick Schmitz, the CEO of Montblanc. "It grew into supporting all sorts of arts programs, cultural initiatives and education programs. This bus is really one of the most exciting projects we've done. It gives arts educaton, musical education, the ability to express yourself creatively, to kids around the country."

The bus is on the road 10 months out of the year and has been doing so since 1998. It's staffed by a group of young, talented individuals who will arrive at a school or destination and display the capabilities of the bus, as well as help kids to produce a music project that they can be proud of.

If you have the chance to slip out of the office a bit early, grab your kids and head over to Discovery Green. The bus is out there and open to the public until 6 p.m.

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