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'Beatles Project' for school music (12/05/2012)
By Emily Buss

     The mixed media artwork of Minneapolis contemporary artist Gregory Euclide graces the cover of the Minnesota Beatles Project fourth volume. The album is a fundraiser for the Vega Productions project, with all proceeds benefiting art and music education in Minnesota classrooms.

Their undeniably catchy tunes transcended the pop music industry and their gripping legacy has extended far beyond the flower power generation. Throughout the 1960s, the Liverpool-born rock 'n' rollers, famously known as the Beatles, made tremendous contributions not only to the music industry, but to film, literature, art, and fashion, as well. The majority of their nearly 240 songs carried powerful messages of love, hope, peace, and imagination. With the help of Vega Productions, a Minnesota-based nonprofit dedicated to revitalizing music and art education in classrooms across the state, 13 of the songs made famous by the Beatles have been re-produced and given a new purpose—keeping music in the classroom.

As part of the Minnesota Beatle Project, the fourth installment, appropriately titled "Minnesota Beatle Project Vol. 4," features 12 songs co-written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and one song written by George Harrison, professionally recreated by musicians with strong ties to Minnesota. Nationally renowned artists Trampled By Turtles, DeVotchKa, Haley Bonar, and Astronautalis lend their unique voices to old Beatles favorites. Rising Minnesota stars Caroline Smith and The Goodnight Sleeps, Halloween Alaska, Chastity Brown, and others also lend their styles to the classic tracks.

"We have a deep pool of talent here in the Minnesota music industry and every artist really pulled together to create this album," said Mark Gehring, Executive Director of Vega Productions. "Everyone featured on this album firmly believes in the idea behind the project and that's why it works."

The ornately decorated cover of the new album was crafted by Minneapolis-based contemporary artist Gregory Euclide, who is best known for creating the cover art for Bon Iver's Grammy-winning self-titled 2011 album. The elaborate black-and-white cover showcases Euclide's talents in mixed media and explores his creative ideas surrounding nature.

Since the Beatle project was founded in 2009, it has provided 30 grants to Minnesota schools from Albertville to Waseca, which have benefited more than 20,000 students statewide.

"Music education teaches students about the power of creativity and dedication, and enhances their overall learning experience," Gehring said. "But, many Minnesota schools are being forced to make difficult budgetary decisions, which often means classes in the arts are the first cut."

In Minnesota, 99 percent of students have access to some form of arts education in school. However, with recent budget cuts at the state level, the variety is limited. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, the state has underfunded art programs in schools by 13 percent per pupil. The Minnesota Beatle Project is helping to combat that statistic by donating all net proceeds from the sale of "Minnesota Beatle Project Vol. 4" to the Instruments in the Cloud program.

Instruments in the Cloud is a Vega Productions online resource that compiles a catalog of musical instrument inventories that schools across the state can use to share instruments that are not in use. This year, Instruments in the Cloud expanded from just the state of Minnesota to serve public schools throughout the entire United States.

The 40-minute album incorporates soothing string arrangements, fast tempo guitar rhythms, and drum beats that will keep listeners' feet tapping from the first song to the very last. The marching band from Bloomington Jefferson High School performs a head-bobbing rendition of "She Loves You." Minneapolis transplant and rapper Andy Bothwell, better known as Astronautalis, performs a new age, gritty version of the famous track "Back in the USSR." Duluth natives and popular bluegrass musicians Trampled By Turtles put a unique twist on "Baby's In Black."

"'Minnesota Beatle Project Vol. 4' is the unique result of artists in the Minnesota music industry coming together to strengthen music programs across the state to ensure that we are growing and nurturing the next generation of great artists and musicians," Gehring said. "I think this album is the best one yet."

The Minnesota Beatle Project is the collaborative effort of many musicians, and all albums produced through this project feature respected musicians born or raised in Minnesota who perform an original composition of a well-known Beatles song.

The fourth installment of the Minnesota Beatles Project is available for purchase in compact disc and digital form, as well as limited-edition white vinyl long play format.

For more information about the project, visit the Vega Productions website. http://www.vegaproductions.org/ 


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